Regulatory T cells: Development, function and role in autoimmunity

Ruth Y. Lan, Aftab A. Ansari, Zhe Xiong Lian, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Scopus citations


The crucial role of regulatory cells in self-tolerance and autoimmunity has been clearly established in numerous types of regulatory cells, the majority of which are CD4+ T cells. Much focus has been placed on thymically derived CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells, given that the depletion of this subset in murine models results in the spontaneous development of autoimmune diseases. These naturally occurring regulatory T cells are found to be functionally mature in the thymus, and exert suppression in a contact-dependent manner. Another important category of immunosuppressive cells consists of conditionally induced regulatory T cells such as Tr1, Th3, and various other CD4+ lymphocytes. Understanding the development and regulatory functions of immunoregulatory cells may elucidate the etiology for loss of self-tolerance. This review will summarize the characteristics, developmental pathways, and functions of regulatory T cells, as well as their role in human autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Myasthenia Gravis, Kawasaki disease, autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type II, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-363
Number of pages13
JournalAutoimmunity Reviews
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome
  • Autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type II
  • CD4CD25 T cells
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Th3
  • Tr1
  • Type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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