ReportImmune Tolerance

Regulatory T cells generated early in life play a distinct role in maintaining self-tolerance

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Science  19 Mar 2015:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7017

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Aire is an important regulator of immunological tolerance, operating in a minute subset of thymic stromal cells to induce transcripts encoding peptides that guide T-cell selection. Expression of Aire during a perinatal age-window is necessary and sufficient to prevent the multi-organ autoimmunity characteristic of Aire-deficient mice. We report that Aire promotes the perinatal generation of a distinct compartment of Foxp3+CD4+ regulatory T (Treg) cells, which stably persists in adult mice. This population has a role in maintaining self-tolerance, transcriptome and activation profile distinguishable from those of Tregs produced in adults. Underlying the distinct Treg populations are age-dependent, Aire-independent differences in the processing and presentation of thymic stromal-cell peptides, resulting in different T-cell receptor repertoires. Our findings expand the notion of a developmentally layered immune system.

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