Indexed on: 10 Jun '11Published on: 10 Jun '11Published in: Blood
Multiple mechanisms operate to ensure T-cell tolerance toward self-antigens. Three main processes have been described: clonal deletion, anergy, and deviation to CD4(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) that suppress autoreactive T cells that have escaped the first 2 mechanisms. Although it is accepted that dendritic cells (DCs) and B cells contribute in maintaining T-cell tolerance to self-antigens, their relative contribution and the processes involved under physiologic conditions remain only partially characterized. In this study, we used different transgenic mouse models to obtain chimeras where a neo self-antigen is expressed by thymic epithelium and/or by DCs or B cells. We found that expression of cognate ligand in the thymus enhances antigen-specific FoxP3(+) cells independently of whether the self-antigen is expressed on thymic epithelium or only on DCs, but not on B cells. On the contrary, self-antigen expression by B cells was very efficient in inducing FoxP3(+) cells in the periphery, whereas self-antigen expression by DC led mainly to deletion and anergy of antigen-specific FoxP3(-) cells. The results presented in this study underline the role of B cells in Treg induction and may have important implications in clinical protocols aimed at the peripheral expansion of Tregs in patients.