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Immunology. 1996 Sep;89(1):13-9.

Mouse models of autoimmune disease suggest that self-tolerance is maintained by unresponsive autoreactive T cells.

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Laboratory of Experimental Pathology, Aichi Cancer Center Research Institute, Nagoya, Japan.


Multiple organ-localized autoimmune diseases, such as thyroiditis and gastritis, spontaneously develop in BALB/c nu/nu (nude) mice receiving embryonic rat thymus grafts (TG) under their renal capsules (TG nude mice). When thyroid was grafted into the rat thymus of TG nude mice, development of autoimmune thyroiditis, but not other diseases, was completely prevented. However, when such mice received thyroid antigen plus complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA), severe autoimmune thyroiditis developed, suggesting that some thyroid-specific autoreactive T cells migrate into the periphery, but remain unresponsive. Development of autoimmune diseases, including thyroiditis, in TG nude mice was prevented by a single intraperitoneal injection of splenic CD4+ cells from normal BALB/c mice and also from mice with intrathymic thyroid grafts, indicating that thyroid-specific suppressor T cells are present in normal mice and that such T cells are neither deleted nor inactivated by the intrathymic thyroid grafts, in contrast to autoreactive T cells. Thus clonal deletion in the thymus, and clonal anergy and/or ignorance in the periphery, of autoreactive cells is important to maintain immune tolerance to organ-specific antigen, but CD4 suppressor T cells may play a more important role in tolerance, and the failure of education of this population may cause autoimmune diseases in the TG nude mouse model.

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