CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) are of special interest in immunology because of their potent inhibitory function. Many fundamental aspects of Tregs, including their antigenic profile, development and peripheral homeostasis, remain highly controversial. Here, we propose a Treg-centered antigen-non-specific immunoregulation model focused on the T-cell system, particularly on CD4+T cells. The T-cell pool consists of naive T cells (Tnais), Tregs and effector T cells (Teffs). Regardless of antigen specificity, the ratio of the activated T-cell subsets (Treg/Teff/Tnai) and their temporal and spatial uniformity dictate the differentiation of Tnais. Activated Tregs inhibit the activation, proliferation, induction and activity of Teffs; in contrast, activated Teffs inhibit the induction of Tregs from Tnais but cooperate with Treg-specific antigens to promote the proliferation and activity of Tregs. In many cases, these interactions are antigen-non-specific, whereas the activation of both Tregs and Teffs is antigen-specific. Memory T-cell subsets are essential for the maintenance of adaptive immune responses, but the antigen-non-specific interactions among T-cell subsets may be more important during the establishment of the adaptive immune system to a newly encountered antigen. This is especially important when new and memory antigens are presented closelyboth temporally and spatiallyto T cells, because there are always baseline levels of activated Tregs, which are usually higher than levels of memory T cells for new antigens. Based on this hypothesis, we further infer that, under physiological conditions, Tregs in lymph nodes mainly recognize antigens frequently released from draining tissues, and that these self-reactive Tregs are commonly involved in the establishment of adaptive immunity to new antigens and in the feedback control of excessive responses to pathogens.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy
- Infectious Diseases