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The defect in T-cell regulation in NOD mice is an effect on the T-cell effectors.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A..Dec 16, 2008;105(50):19857-62.
D'Alise AM, Auyeung V, Feuerer M, Nishio J, Fontenot J, Benoist C, Mathis D.
Section on Immunology and Immunogenetics, Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
FoxP3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) protect against autoimmunity, type 1 diabetes (T1D) in particular, prompting the hypothesis that a deficiency in Tregs is a critical determinant of diabetes susceptibility in NOD mice. However, tests of this hypothesis have yielded contradictory results. We confirmed that NOD mice, compared with reference strains, do not have a primary deficit in Treg numbers in the lymphoid organs, whether in prediabetic mice of any age or in animals with recent-onset diabetes. NOD Tregs did show a defect in standard in vitro T cell suppression assays, particularly at low suppressor/effector ratios. Gene expression profiling revealed the vast majority of transcripts constituting the "Treg signature" to be normally distributed in NOD Tregs versus CD4(+) T conventional (Tconv) cells, although there were a few differences affecting one or the other population. According to results from criss-cross experiments, the functional inefficacy was not rooted in NOD Tregs, which suppressed as well as their C57BL/6 (B6) counterparts, but rather in NOD Tconv, which were less prone to suppression than were B6 Tconv cells. They also responded more effectively to anti-CD3/28 monoclonal antibody (mAb) stimulation in vitro or to a natural pancreatic antigen in vivo. This difference was independent of autoimmune inflammation, did not map to the idd3 region, and was not due to the overproduction of interleukin-21 in NOD mice. That the immune dysregulation in this T1D model is rooted in the ability of effector T cells to be regulated, rather than in Tregs themselves, has implications for proposed therapeutic interventions.