Indexed on: 13 Oct '06Published on: 13 Oct '06Published in: Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis
The immune system responds vigorously to invading pathogens (non-self, foreign), while remaining unresponsive (tolerant) to the body's own components and circulating constituents (self). This indifference to self components is a result of finely orchestrated events of thymic negative selection (central tolerance) of developing T cells that are autoaggressive combined with those operative in the periphery (peripheral tolerance) to control the activity of potentially autoreactive T cells that escaped thymic tolerance. Recently, autoimmune regulator expressed in the thymus has been identified as a critical mediator of central tolerance towards tissue-specific antigens. In the periphery, a variety of regulatory T cells are involved in effecting tolerance. There is immense interest and excitement about the newly identified subset of CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells. This is a unique subset of CD4(+) T cells that bear CD25 (IL-2Ralpha chain) on the cell surface in the naïve state and express FoxP3 as a unique marker. These cells suppress the activity of autoreactive effector T cells primarily via cell-cell contact. The deficiency and/or altered function of CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells is associated with autoimmunity. Mice deficient in FoxP3 (scurfy mice) bear an autoimmune phenotype, and human males with mutations in the corresponding gene express the phenotype of wide-spread autoimmunity, the immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy and enteropathy, and X-linked syndrome. In vitro expansion of antigen-specific CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells and their adoptive transfer into patients suffering from autoimmunity is emerging as a promising new therapeutic approach for these debilitating disorders.