The generation of Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells in the thymus is essential for immune homeostasis. In the past several years, substantial progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms by which a minor portion of developing thymocytes are selected to become Treg cells. Although previously controversial, recent data support the importance of TCR specificity as a primary determinant for selecting self-reactive thymocytes to become Treg cells in a multi-step process involving cytokines, co-stimulatory molecules, and a variety of antigen-presenting cells. Importantly, the antigenic niche for Treg cell development appears to be typically quite small, implying the recognition of tissue-specific, rather than ubiquitous, self-antigens. Finally, it appears that an NF-κB transcription factor, c-Rel, may be the link between TCR recognition and the induction of Foxp3 expression, which is required for the function and stability of the natural Treg cell population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


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