Immune protection is achieved by the elaboration of many molecules that together can not only destroy invading organisms, pathogenic cells, and tumors but also injure normal cells. This review series focuses on recent advances indicating that distinct subsets of regulatory T cells and natural killer T cells control potentially pathogenic antigen-reactive T cells. These suppressor cells may play important roles in transplantation, allergic disease, vaccination, and the prevention and treatment of autoimmune disease.
The immune system evolved to protect organisms from a virtually infinite variety of disease-causing agents but to avoid harmful responses to self. Because immune protective mechanisms include the elaboration of potent inflammatory molecules, antibodies, and killer cell activation — which together can not only destroy invading microorganisms, pathogenic autoreactive cells, and tumors, but also mortally injure normal cells — the immune system is inherently a “double-edged sword” and must be tightly regulated. Immune response regulation includes homeostatic mechanisms intrinsic to the activation and differentiation of antigen-triggered immunocompetent cells and extrinsic mechanisms mediated by suppressor cells. This review series will focus on recent advances indicating that distinct subsets of regulatory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells as well as NK T cells control the outgrowth of potentially pathogenic antigen-reactive T cells and will highlight the evidence that these suppressor T cells may play potentially important clinical roles in preventing and treating immune-mediated disease. Here we provide a historical overview of suppressor cells and the experimental basis for the existence of functionally and phenotypically distinct suppressor subsets. Finally, we will speculate on how the distinct suppressor cell subsets may function in concert to regulate immune responses.
Hong Jiang, Leonard Chess
Recent years have seen Tregs become a popular subject of immunological research. Abundant experimental data have now confirmed that naturally occurring CD25+CD4+ Tregs in particular play a key role in the maintenance of self tolerance, with their dysfunction leading to severe or even fatal immunopathology. The sphere of influence of Tregs is now known to extend well beyond just the maintenance of immunological tolerance and to impinge on a host of clinically important areas from cancer to infectious diseases. The identification of specific molecular markers in both human and murine immune systems has enabled the unprecedented investigation of these cells and should prove key to ultimately unlocking their clinical potential.
Zoltán Fehérvari, Shimon Sakaguchi
There is increasing evidence that the immune response can be inhibited by several T cell subsets, including NK T cells, CD25+CD4+ T cells, and a subpopulation of CD8+ T cells. Animal model studies of multiple sclerosis have suggested an important role for suppressor CD8+ T cells in protection against disease recurrence and exacerbation. The molecular lynchpin of CD8+ suppressive activity is the murine MHC molecule Qa-1, termed HLA-E in humans. Here we summarize findings from work on Qa-1 that have begun to delineate suppressor CD8+ T cells and their mechanisms of action in the context of self tolerance and autoimmune disease.
Stefanie Sarantopoulos, Linrong Lu, Harvey Cantor
Regulation of the immune response is a multifaceted process involving lymphocytes that function to maintain both self tolerance as well as homeostasis following productive immunity against microbes. There are 2 broad categories of Tregs that function in different immunological settings depending upon the context of antigen exposure and the nature of the inflammatory response. During massive inflammatory conditions such as microbial exposure in the gut or tissue transplantation, regulatory CD4+CD25+ Tregs broadly suppress priming and/or expansion of polyclonal autoreactive responses nonspecifically. In other immune settings where initially a limited repertoire of antigen-reactive T cells is activated and expanded, TCR-specific negative feedback mechanisms are able to achieve a fine homeostatic balance. Here I will describe experimental evidence for the existence of a Treg population specific for determinants that are derived from the TCR and are expressed by expanding myelin basic protein–reactive T cells mediating experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an animal prototype for multiple sclerosis. These mechanisms ensure induction of effective but appropriately limited responses against foreign antigens while preventing autoreactivity from inflicting escalating damage. In contrast to CD25+ Tregs, which are most efficient at suppressing priming or activation, these specific Tregs are most efficient in controlling T cells following their activation.
T cell vaccination (TCV) activates Tregs of 2 kinds: anti-idiotypic (anti-id) and anti-ergotypic (anti-erg). These regulators furnish a useful view of the physiology of T cell regulation of the immune response. Anti-id Tregs recognize specific effector clones by their unique TCR CDR3 peptides; anti-id networks of CD4+ and CD8+ Tregs have been described in detail. Here we shall focus on anti-erg T regulators. Anti-erg T cells, unlike anti-id T cells, do not recognize the clonal identity of effector T cells; rather, anti-erg T cells recognize the state of activation of target effector T cells, irrespective of their TCR specificity. We consider several features of anti-erg T cells: their ontogeny, subset markers, and target ergotope molecules; mechanisms by which they regulate other T cells; mechanisms by which they get regulated; and therapeutic prospects for anti-erg upregulation and downregulation.
Irun R. Cohen, Francisco J. Quintana, Avishai Mimran
Effective immune responses against pathogens are sometimes accompanied by strong inflammatory reactions. To minimize damage to self, the activation of the immune system also triggers anti-inflammatory circuits. Both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory reactions are normal components of the same immune response, which coordinately fight infections while preventing immune pathology. IL-10 is an important suppressive cytokine, produced by a large number of immune cells in addition to the antigen-driven IL-10–producing regulatory and the naturally occurring suppressor CD4+ T cells, which is a key player in anti-inflammatory immune responses. However, additional mechanisms have evolved to ensure that pathogen eradication is achieved with minimum damage to the host. Here we discuss those mechanisms that operate to regulate effector immune responses.
Anne O’Garra, Pedro L. Vieira, Paulo Vieira, Anne E. Goldfeld
NKT cells are a unique T lymphocyte sublineage that has been implicated in the regulation of immune responses associated with a broad range of diseases, including autoimmunity, infectious diseases, and cancer. In stark contrast to both conventional T lymphocytes and other types of Tregs, NKT cells are reactive to the nonclassical class I antigen–presenting molecule CD1d, and they recognize glycolipid antigens rather than peptides. Moreover, they can either up- or downregulate immune responses by promoting the secretion of Th1, Th2, or immune regulatory cytokines. This review will explore the diverse influences of these cells in various disease models, their ability to suppress or enhance immunity, and the potential for manipulating these cells as a novel form of immunotherapy.
Dale I. Godfrey, Mitchell Kronenberg
Allergic diseases such as asthma, rhinitis, and eczema are increasing in prevalence and affect up to 15% of populations in Westernized countries. The description of Tregs as T cells that prevent development of autoimmune disease led to considerable interest in whether these Tregs were also normally involved in prevention of sensitization to allergens and whether it might be possible to manipulate Tregs for the therapy of allergic disease. Current data suggest that Th2 responses to allergens are normally suppressed by both CD4+CD25+ Tregs and IL-10 Tregs. Furthermore, suppression by these subsets is decreased in allergic individuals. In animal models, Tregs could be induced by high- or low-dose inhaled antigen, and prior induction of such Tregs prevented subsequent development of allergen sensitization and airway inflammation in inhaled challenge models. For many years, allergen-injection immunotherapy has been used for the therapy of allergic disease, and this treatment may induce IL-10 Tregs, leading to both suppression of Th2 responses and a switch from IgE to IgG4 antibody production. Improvements in allergen immunotherapy, such as peptide therapy, and greater understanding of the biology of Tregs hold great promise for the treatment and prevention of allergic disease.
Douglas S. Robinson, Mark Larché, Stephen R. Durham
The induction and maintenance of immune tolerance to transplanted tissues constitute an active process involving multiple mechanisms that work cooperatively to prevent graft rejection. These mechanisms are similar to inherent tolerance toward self antigens and have a requirement for active immunoregulation, largely T cell mediated, that promotes specific unresponsiveness to donor alloantigens. This review outlines our current understanding of the Treg subsets that contribute to allotolerance and the mechanisms by which these cells exert their effects as well as their potential for therapy.
Patrick T. Walsh, Devon K. Taylor, Laurence A. Turka