Regulatory T-cells in autoimmune diseases: Challenges, controversies and-yet-unanswered questions

Charlotte R. Grant, Rodrigo Liberal, Giorgina Mieli-Vergani, Diego Vergani*, Maria Serena Longhi

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    218 Citations (Scopus)
    792 Downloads (Pure)


    Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are central to the maintenance of self-tolerance and tissue homeostasis. Markers commonly used to define human Tregs in the research setting include high expression of CD25, FOXP3 positivity and low expression/negativity for CD127. Many other markers have been proposed, but none unequivocally identifies bona fide Tregs. Tregs are equipped with an array of mechanisms of suppression, including the modulation of antigen presenting cell maturation and function, the killing of target cells, the disruption of metabolic pathways and the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Treg impairment has been reported in a number of human autoimmune conditions and includes Treg numerical and functional defects and conversion into effector cells in response to inflammation. In addition to intrinsic Treg impairment, resistance of effector T cells to Treg control has been described. Discrepancies in the literature are common, reflecting differences in the choice of study participants and the technical challenges associated with investigating this cell population. Studies differ in terms of the methodology used to define and isolate putative regulatory cells and to assess their suppressive function. In this review we outline studies describing Treg frequency and suppressive function in systemic and organ specific autoimmune diseases, with a specific focus on the challenges faced when investigating Tregs in these conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-116
    Number of pages12
    Issue number2
    Early online date16 Oct 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


    • Autoimmune disease
    • Autoimmune liver disease
    • Regulatory T cells
    • Self-tolerance


    Dive into the research topics of 'Regulatory T-cells in autoimmune diseases: Challenges, controversies and-yet-unanswered questions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this