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Arthritis Res Ther. 2005;7 Suppl 2:S4-14. Epub 2005 Mar 16.

The role of the T cell in autoimmune inflammation.

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Nikolaus Fiebiger Center for Molecular Medicine, Clinical Research Group III, Department of Internal Medicine III and Institute for Clinical Immunology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.


T cells, in particular CD4+ T cells, have been implicated in mediating many aspects of autoimmune inflammation. However, current evidence suggests that the role played by CD4+ T cells in the development of rheumatoid inflammation exceeds that of activated proinflammatory T-helper (Th)1 effector cells that drive the chronic autoimmune response. Subsets of CD4+ T cells with regulatory capacity, such as CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells and Th2 cells, have been identified, and recent observations suggest that in rheumatoid arthritis the function of these regulatory T cells is severely impaired. Thus, in rheumatoid arthritis, defective regulatory mechanisms might allow the breakdown of peripheral tolerance, after which the detrimental Th1-driven immune response evolves and proceeds to chronic inflammation. Here, we review the functional abnormalities and the contribution of different T cell subsets to rheumatoid inflammation.

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