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Toxicol Pathol. 2012;40(2):186-204. doi: 10.1177/0192623311430693. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Regulatory T-cells: diverse phenotypes integral to immune homeostasis and suppression.

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GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Regulatory T-cells (T(REG)) are diverse populations of lymphocytes that regulate the adaptive immune response in higher vertebrates. T(REG) delete autoreactive T-cells, induce tolerance, and dampen inflammation. T(REG) cell deficiency in humans (i.e., IPEX [Immunodysregulation, Polyendocrinopathy and Enteropathy, X-linked syndrome]) and animal models (e.g., "Scurfy" mouse) is associated with multisystemic autoimmune disease. T(REG) in humans and laboratory animal species are similar in type and regulatory function. A molecular marker of and the cell lineage specification factor for T(REG) is FOXP3, a forkhead box transcription factor. CD4(+) T(REG) are either natural (nT(REG)), which are thymus-derived CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) T-cells, or inducible (i.e., Tr1 cells that secrete IL-10, Th3 cells that secrete TGF-β and IL-10, and Foxp3(+) Treg). The proinflammatory Th17 subset has been a major focus of research. T(H)17 CD4(+) effector T-cells secrete IL-17, IL-21, and IL-22 in autoimmune and inflammatory disease, and are dynamically balanced with T(REG) cell development. Other lymphocyte subsets with regulatory function include: inducible CD8(+) T(REG), CD3(+)CD4(-)CD8(-) T(REG) (double-negative), CD4(+)Vα14(+) (NKT(REG)), and γδ T-cells. T(REG) have four regulatory modes of action: secretion of inhibitory cytokines (e.g., IL-10 and TGF-β), granzyme-perforin-induced apoptosis of effector lymphocytes, depriving effector T-cells of cytokines leading to apoptosis, or inhibition of dendritic cell function. The role of T(REG) in mucosal sites, inflammation/infection, pregnancy, and cancer as well as a review of T(REG) as a modulatory target in drug development will be covered.

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