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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 26;109(26):10468-73. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201131109. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Regulatory T cells use programmed death 1 ligands to directly suppress autoreactive B cells in vivo.

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Institutes of Molecular Medicine and Experimental Immunology, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, 53105 Bonn, Germany.


The mechanisms by which regulatory T cells (T(regs)) suppress autoantibody production are unclear. Here we have addressed this question using transgenic mice expressing model antigens in the kidney. We report that T(regs) were essential and sufficient to suppress autoreactive B cells in an antigen-specific manner and to prevent them from producing autoantibodies. Most of this suppression was mediated through the inhibitory cell-surface-molecule programmed death-1 (PD-1). Suppression required PD-1 expression on autoreactive B cells and expression of the two PD-1 ligands on T(regs). PD-1 ligation inhibited activation of autoreactive B cells, suppressed their proliferation, and induced their apoptosis. Intermediate PD-1(+) cells, such as T helper cells, were dispensable for suppression. These findings demonstrate in vivo that T(regs) use PD-1 ligands to directly suppress autoreactive B cells, and they identify a previously undescribed peripheral B-cell tolerance mechanism against tissue autoantigens.

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