Induction of Colonic Regulatory T Cells by Indigenous Clostridium Species

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Science  23 Dec 2010:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198469


CD4+ T regulatory cells (Tregs), expressing the Foxp3 transcription factor, play a critical role in the maintenance of immune homeostasis. Here, we show that in mice, Tregs were most abundant in the colonic mucosa. The spore-forming component of indigenous intestinal microbiota—particularly clusters IV and XIVa of the genus Clostridium—promoted Treg cell accumulation. Colonization of mice by a defined mix of Clostridium strains provided an environment rich in transforming growth factor–β (TGF-β) and affected Foxp3+ Treg number and function in the colon. Oral inoculation of Clostridium during the early life of conventionally reared mice resulted in resistance to colitis and systemic IgE responses in adult mice, suggesting a new therapeutic approach to autoimmunity and allergy.