Besides positive and negative selection of T cells, another function of the thymus in maintaining immunological self-tolerance is the production of CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells capable of preventing autoimmune disease. They acquire the regulatory activity through the thymic selection process, and are released to the periphery as a functionally and phenotypically mature population. Our recent study with transgenic mice in which every class II MHC molecule covalently binds the same single peptide has revealed that a particular self-peptide/MHC ligand in the thymus can positively select a broad repertoire of functionally mature CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells as well as naïve T cells. Interestingly, the regulatory T cells bear higher reactivity than other T cells to the selecting ligand in the thymus even after negative selection by the ligand. This broad repertoire and high self-reactivity of CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells, together with their high level expression of various accessory molecules, may guarantee their prompt and efficient activation upon encounter with a diverse range of self peptide/MHC complexes in the periphery, ensuring dominant control of self-reactive T cells.
|Number of pages||18|
|Journal||Novartis Foundation symposium|
|Publication status||Published - 2003|
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