Regulatory T cells in the prevention of mucosal inflammatory diseases: Patrolling the border

Ruth Y Lan, Ian R Mackay, M Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Regulatory T (Treg) cells are important contributors to the maintenance of immune tolerance in the periphery, and deficiency of Tregs is associated with various immunopathic diseases. Murine models of autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders have helped to elucidate how Tregs are involved in these diseases. A feature in common between human and mice that lack one or another of the key Treg subsets is the occurrence of mucosal inflammation. The relatively fragile mucosal surface represents a complex system that is normally well equipped to ward off harmful pathogens yet at the same time is inhibitory to destructive inflammatory responses to biologically needed (probiotic) microorganisms, or other common environmental antigens e.g. nutrients. We here discuss the importance of Tregs in maintaining tolerance at mucosal surfaces and the outcomes of deficiency of Treg function. The intestinal tract and its inflammatory diseases provide the point of departure for discussion, but similar considerations could apply to other mucosal linings exposed to the environment such as other members of the digestive system. However, the lungs, bile ducts, urogenital tract and other mucosal surfaces are susceptible to poorly understood inflammatory states that possibly depend on dysfunction of Treg cells. Finally there are now potential therapies predicated on reconstitution of effective function of Treg cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272 - 280
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Cite this