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Nat Immunol. 2015 Jun;16(6):635-41. doi: 10.1038/ni.3171. Epub 2015 May 4.

Thymic regulatory T cell niche size is dictated by limiting IL-2 from antigen-bearing dendritic cells and feedback competition.

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Division of Immunology and Pathogenesis, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA.
Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.


The thymic production of regulatory T cells (Treg cells) requires interleukin 2 (IL-2) and agonist T cell antigen receptor (TCR) ligands and is controlled by competition for a limited developmental niche, but the thymic sources of IL-2 and the factors that limit access to the niche are poorly understood. Here we found that IL-2 produced by antigen-bearing dendritic cells (DCs) had a key role in Treg cell development and that existing Treg cells limited new development of Treg cells by competing for IL-2. Our data suggest that antigen-presenting cells (APCs) that can provide both IL-2 and a TCR ligand constitute the thymic niche and that competition by existing Treg cells for a limited supply of IL-2 provides negative feedback for new production of Treg cells.

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