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Trends Immunol. 2011 Jul;32(7):301-6. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 May 27.

Regulatory T cells: stability revisited.

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Diabetes Center, University of California San Francisco, HSW 1102, 513 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Breakdown in self-tolerance is caused, in part, by loss of regulatory T (Treg) cells. Recently, a controversy has surfaced about whether Treg cells are overwhelmingly stable, or if they can be reprogrammed in inflammatory and autoimmune environments. Those in the instability camp have shown that a fraction of Treg cells lose forkhead box P3 protein and acquire effector arm activities. Instability is coupled with interleukin-2 insufficiency and the inflammatory milieu that promotes reprogramming. Here, we highlight the basic tenets of each viewpoint and discuss technical, biological and environmental differences in the models that might help yield a unifying hypothesis. Also considered is how Treg cell instability could link to development of autoimmune disease and the implications for trials of Treg cell-based therapy.

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