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J Immunol. 2017 Dec 15;199(12):3959-3971. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1700892. Epub 2017 Nov 3.

Mode of Tolerance Induction and Requirement for Aire Are Governed by the Cell Types That Express Self-Antigen and Those That Present Antigen.

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Division of Molecular Immunology, Institute for Enzyme Research, Tokushima University, Tokushima 770-8503, Japan.
Department of Molecular Genetics, Institute of Biomedical Science, Kansai Medical University, Osaka 570-8506, Japan.
Institute for Immunology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich 80336, Germany.
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Tokushima University Graduate School, Tokushima 770-8503, Japan; and.
Division of Molecular Immunology, Institute for Enzyme Research, Tokushima University, Tokushima 770-8503, Japan;
Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development-Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology, Tokyo 100-0004, Japan.


Aire controls the fate of autoreactive thymocytes (i.e., clonal deletion or development into regulatory T cells [Tregs]) through transcriptional control of the expression of tissue-restricted self-antigens (TRAs) from medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) and bone marrow (BM)-derived cells. Although TRAs expressed by mTECs and BM-derived cells are suggested to complement each other to generate a full spectrum of TRAs, little is known about the relative contribution of TRAs from each component for establishment of self-tolerance. Furthermore, the precise role of Aire in specific types of Aire-expressing APCs remains elusive. We have approached these issues by generating two different types of transgenic mouse (Tg) model, which express a prefixed model self-antigen driven by the insulin promoter or the Aire promoter. In the insulin-promoter Tg model, mTECs alone were insufficient for clonal deletion, and BM-derived APCs were required for this action by utilizing Ag transferred from mTECs. In contrast, mTECs alone were able to induce Tregs, although at a much lower efficiency in the absence of BM-derived APCs. Importantly, lack of Aire in mTECs, but not in BM-derived APCs, impaired both clonal deletion and production of Tregs. In the Aire-promoter Tg model, both mTECs and BM-derived APCs could independently induce clonal deletion without Aire, and production of Tregs was impaired by the lack of Aire in mTECs, but not in BM-derived APCs. These results suggest that the fate of autoreactive thymocytes together with the requirement for Aire depend on the cell types that express self-antigens and the types of APCs involved in tolerance induction.

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