Editors' ChoiceImmunology

For the Immune System, Silence Is Golden

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Sci. Signal.  23 Dec 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 357, pp. ec360
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aaa5286

For the immune system, balance is key. Immune cells must learn to eliminate invading pathogens but tolerate self. A cell type called regulatory T cells (Tregs) help to maintain this balance, but how they do so, particularly in humans, is unclear. Maeda et al. now report that Tregs “silence” T cells with modest reactivity to self. After culture with Tregs, the silenced T cells proliferated very little and produced almost no cytokines in response to antigen. The authors then examined T cells from healthy donors and from people with an autoimmune disease. Only healthy donors harbored silenced T cells, suggesting that if silencing goes awry, autoimmunity may result.

Y. Maeda, H. Nishikawa, D. Sugiyama, D. Ha, M. Hamaguchi, T. Saito, M. Nishioka, J. B. Wing, D. Adeegbe, I. Katayama, S. Sakaguchi, Detection of self-reactive CD8+ T cells with an anergic phenotype in healthy individuals. Science 346, 1536–1540 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]