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Semin Immunol. 2011 Apr;23(2):130-8. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2011.01.012. Epub 2011 Feb 3.

Environmental influences on T regulatory cells in inflammatory bowel disease.

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Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia and Immunity in Health & Disease, Child and Family Research Institute, British Columbia Children's Hospital, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by chronic, idiopathic inflammation of the intestine. The disease is thought to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors which ultimately leads to a mucosal immune system that overreacts to normal constituents of the mucosal microbiota. The inflammation in IBD is primarily mediated by inappropriate production of proinflammatory cytokines by CD4(+) T effector cells, effects that are suppressed by CD4(+) T regulatory cells. Defects in both the function of T regulatory cells, and the ability of T effector cells to be suppressed, have been implicated in IBD. In this review we will discuss environmental factors, including cytokines, vitamins A and D, and commensal bacteria, which influence the phenotype and function of regulatory T cells and thereby alter the course of IBD. We will also discuss how these environmental signals can be manipulated therapeutically in order to improve the function of regulatory T cells and ultimately restore mucosal homeostasis in patients with IBD.

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