Self and non-self discrimination is needed for the existence rather than deletion of autoimmunity: The role of regulatory T cells in protective autoimmunity

M. Schwartz, J. Kipnis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Autoimmune T cells have been viewed for decades as an outcome of immune system malfunction, and specifically as a failure to distinguish between components of self and non-self. The need for discrimination between self and non-self as a way to avoid autoimmunity has been repeatedly debated over the years. Recent studies suggest that autoimmunity, at least in the nervous system, is the body's defense mechanism against deviations from the normal. The ability to harness neuroprotective autoimmunity upon need is evidently allowed by naturally occurring CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells, which are themselves controlled by brain-derived compounds. These findings challenge widely accepted concepts of the need for discrimination between self and non-self, as they suggest that while such discrimination is indeed required, it is needed not as a way to avoid an anti-self response but to ensure its proper regulation. Whereas a response to non-self can be self-limited by a decreased presence of the relevant antigen, the response to self needs a mechanism for strict control, such as that provided by the naturally occurring regulatory T cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2285-2289
Number of pages5
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Volume61
Issue number18
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2004

Keywords

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • CD4 CD25 regulatory T cells
  • CNS injuries
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Protective autoimmunity

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