Regulatory T cells: friend or foe in immunity to infection?

Nat Rev Immunol. 2004 Nov;4(11):841-55. doi: 10.1038/nri1485.


Homeostasis in the immune system depends on a balance between the responses that control infection and tumour growth and the reciprocal responses that prevent inflammation and autoimmune diseases. It is now recognized that regulatory T cells have a crucial role in suppressing immune responses to self-antigens and in preventing autoimmune diseases. Evidence is also emerging that regulatory T cells control immune responses to bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. This article explores the possibility that regulatory T cells can be both beneficial to the host, through limiting the immunopathology associated with anti-pathogen immune responses, and beneficial to the pathogen, through subversion of the protective immune responses of the host.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Communicable Diseases / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Immunity / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / immunology


  • Receptors, Interleukin-2