Regulatory T Cells

Abstract

The study of these cells has been ongoing for over two decades, and publications about these cells have risen to over 39 000 in Pubmed alone. Regulatory T cells, which comprise mostly CD4 lymphocytes, can, as their name suggests, regulate or control immune responses elicited by a number of immune cell types. The overall goal of this regulation is the maintenance of immune self‐tolerance and the attenuation of immunological responses elicited towards a number of different stimuli, such as bacteria, viruses and foreign or neoantigens which may be encountered against either transplanted or cancerous tissue and cells.

Key Concepts

  • Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are a subset of T cells that participate in the downregulation of immune responses.
  • Tregs can develop in the thymus or in the periphery.
  • Their main role is to control autoimmune reactions and to regulate immune responses to foreign antigens.
  • The majority of Tregs are derived from CD4+ T cells.
  • They can suppress effector immune cells through direct contact, release of soluble factors and competition for IL‐2.
  • They can suppress effector immune cells in an antigen‐specific or independent manner.

Keywords: regulatory T cell (Treg); suppression; function; phenotype; therapy; defect

Figure 1. Mechanisms by which Tregs can suppress effector cells of the immune system.
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Further Reading

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Ishigame H, Zenewicz LA, Sanjabi S, et al. (2013) Excessive Th1 responses due to the absence of TGF‐β signaling cause autoimmune diabetes and dysregulated Treg cell homeostasis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110 (17): 6961–6966.

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Galustian, Christine, and Dasgupta, Prokar(Apr 2016) Regulatory T Cells. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0004029.pub3]