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Scand J Immunol. 2010 Jan;71(1):1-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3083.2009.02321.x.

Mucosally induced immunological tolerance, regulatory T cells and the adjuvant effect by cholera toxin B subunit.

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Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and University of Gothenburg Vaccine Research Institute, Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden.


Induction of peripheral immunological tolerance by mucosal administration of selected antigens (Ags) ('oral tolerance') is an attractive, yet medically little developed, approach to prevent or treat selected autoimmune or allergic disorders. A highly effective way to maximize oral tolerance induction for immunotherapeutic purposes is to administer the relevant Ag together with, and preferably linked to the non-toxic B subunit protein of cholera toxin (CTB). Oral, nasal or sublingual administration of such Ag/CTB conjugates or gene fusion proteins have been found to induce tolerance with superior efficiency compared with administration of Ag alone, including the suppression of various autoimmune disorders and allergies in animal models. In a proof-of-concept clinical trial in patients with Behcet's disease, this was extended with highly promising results to prevent relapse of autoimmune uveitis. Tolerization by mucosal Ag/CTB administration results in a strong increase in Ag-specific regulatory CD4(+) T cells, apparently via two separate pathways: one using B cells as APCs and leading to a strong expansion of Foxp3(+) Treg cells which can both suppress and mediate apoptotic depletion of effector T cells, and one being B cell-independent and associated with development of Foxp3(-) regulatory T cells that express membrane latency-associated peptide and transforming growth factor (TGF-beta) and/or IL-10. The ability of CTB to dramatically increase mucosal Ag uptake and presentation by different APCs through binding to GM1 ganglioside (which makes most B cells effective APCs irrespective of their Ag specificity), together with CTB-mediated stimulation of TGF-beta and IL-10 production and inhibition of IL-6 formation may explain the dramatic potentiation of oral tolerance by mucosal Ags presented with CTB.

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