The development and function of regulatory T cells

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2009 Aug;66(16):2603-22. doi: 10.1007/s00018-009-0026-2. Epub 2009 Apr 24.


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are a critical subset of T cells that mediate peripheral tolerance. There are two types of Tregs: natural Tregs, which develop in the thymus, and induced Tregs, which are derived from naive CD4(+) T cells in the periphery. Tregs utilize a variety of mechanisms to suppress the immune response. While Tregs are critical for the peripheral maintenance of potential autoreactive T cells, they can also be detrimental by preventing effective anti-tumor responses and sterilizing immunity against pathogens. In this review, we will discuss the development of natural and induced Tregs as well as the role of Tregs in a variety of disease settings and the mechanisms they utilize for suppression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / physiology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell