Regulatory T cells expressing CD25 have been shown to protect rodents from organ-specific autoimmune diseases. Similar CD25+ cells with a memory phenotype exerting suppressive function after polyclonal or allogeneic stimulation are also present in adult human blood. We demonstrate that adult human CD25+ cells regulate the response to myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), as depletion of CD25(+) cells increases responses of PBMC and the addition of purified CD25+ cells suppresses MOG-specific proliferation and IFN-gamma production of CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells. In contrast, cord blood CD25+ cells do not inhibit responses to self antigens, and only a small subpopulation of cord CD25+ cells expresses the typical phenotype of adult regulatory T cells (CD45RA(-) and GITR(+)) enabling suppression of polyclonal responses. We conclude that activation of self-reactive T cells in normal healthy individuals is prevented by the presence of self-antigen-specific CD25+ regulatory T cells and that the majority of these cells mature after birth.