The T-cell Receptor Repertoire of Regulatory T Cells

Immunology. 2008 Dec;125(4):450-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2008.02992.x.


The CD4(+) CD25(+) regulatory population of T cells (Treg cells), which expresses the forkhead family transcription factor (Foxp3), is the key component of the peripheral tolerance mechanism that protects us from a variety of autoimmune diseases. Experimental evidence shows that Treg cells recognize a wide range of antigenic specificities with increased reactivity to self antigens, although the affinity of these interactions remains to be further defined. The Treg repertoire is highly diverse with a distinct set of T-cell receptors (TCRs), and yet is overlapping to some extent with the repertoire of conventional T cells (Tconv cells). The majority of Treg cells are generated in the thymus. However, the role of the TCR specificity in directing thymic precursors to become Treg or Tconv cells remains unclear. On the one hand, the higher self reactivity of Treg cells and utilization of different TCRs in Treg and Tconv repertoires suggest that in TCR interactions an initial decision is made about the 'suitability' of a developing thymocyte to become a Treg cell. On the other hand, as Treg cells can recognize a wide range of foreign antigens, have a diverse TCR repertoire, and show some degree of overlap with Tconv cells, the signals through the TCR may be complementary to the TCR-independent process that generates precursors of Treg cells. In this review, we discuss how different features of the Treg repertoire influence our understanding of Treg specificities and the role of self reactivity in the generation of this population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epitopes
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Self Tolerance / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology


  • Epitopes
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell