Regulatory T cells and inhibitory cytokines in autoimmunity

Curr Opin Immunol. 2009 Dec;21(6):612-8. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2009.09.011. Epub 2009 Oct 23.


Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (T(regs)) contribute significantly to the maintenance of peripheral tolerance, but they ultimately fail in autoimmune diseases. The events that lead to T(reg) failure in controlling autoreactive effector T cells (T(effs)) during autoimmunity are not completely understood. In this review, we discuss possible mechanisms for this subversion as they relate to type 1 diabetes (T1D) and multiple sclerosis (MS). Recent studies emphasize firstly, the role of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6, in inhibiting or subverting T(reg) function; secondly, the issue of T(reg) plasticity; thirdly, the possible resistance of autoimmune T cells to T(reg)-mediated control; and fourthly, T(reg)-associated inhibitory cytokines TGFbeta, IL-10 and IL-35 in facilitating T(reg) suppressive activity and promoting T(reg) generation. These recent advances place a large emphasis on the local tissue specific inflammatory environment as it relates to T(reg) function and disease development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Cytokines