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Gastroenterology. 2011 Jun;140(7):2019-30. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.02.059. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

Human colonic myofibroblasts promote expansion of CD4+ CD25high Foxp3+ regulatory T cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77555-0655, USA.



Regulatory T (Treg) cells (CD4+ CD25high FoxP3+) regulate mucosal tolerance; their adoptive transfer prevents or reduces symptoms of colitis in mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease. Colonic CD90+ mesenchymal myofibroblasts and fibroblasts (CMFs) are abundant, nonprofessional antigen-presenting cells in the normal human colonic mucosa that suppress proliferation of activated CD4+ effector T cells. We studied CMF suppressive capacity and evaluated the ability of CMF to induce Treg cells.


Allogeneic cocultures of CD4+ T cells and CMFs, derived from normal mucosa of patients undergoing colectomy for colon cancer or inflamed colonic tissues from patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, were used to assess activation of the Treg cells.


Coculture of normal CMF with resting or naïve CD4+ T cells led to development of cells with a Treg phenotype; it also induced proliferation of a CD25+ CD127- FoxP3+ T cells, which expressed CTLA-4, interleukin-10, and transforming growth factor-β and had suppressive activities. In contrast to dendritic cells, normal CMFs required exogenous interleukin-2 to induce proliferation of naturally occurring Treg cells. Induction of Treg cells by normal CMFs required major histocompatibility complex class II and prostaglandin E2. CMFs from patients with inflammatory bowel diseases had reduced capacity to induce active Treg cells and increased capacity to transiently generate CD4+CD25+/- CD127+ T cells that express low levels of FoxP3.


CMFs suppress the immune response in normal colon tissue and might therefore help maintain colonic mucosal tolerance. Alterations in CMF-mediated induction of Treg cells might promote pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases.

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