Intestinal bacterial colonization induces mutualistic regulatory T cell responses

Immunity. 2011 May 27;34(5):794-806. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2011.03.021. Epub 2011 May 19.


Mammals harbor a dense commensal microbiota in the colon. Regulatory T (Treg) cells are known to limit microbe-triggered intestinal inflammation and the CD4+ T cell compartment is shaped by the presence of particular microbes or bacterial compounds. It is, however, difficult to distinguish whether these effects reflect true mutualistic immune adaptation to intestinal colonization or rather idiosyncratic immune responses. To investigate truly mutualistic CD4+ T cell adaptation, we used the altered Schaedler flora (ASF). Intestinal colonization resulted in activation and de novo generation of colonic Treg cells. Failure to activate Treg cells resulted in the induction of T helper 17 (Th17) and Th1 cell responses, which was reversed by wild-type Treg cells. Efficient Treg cell induction was also required to maintain intestinal homeostasis upon dextran sulfate sodium-mediated damage in the colon. Thus, microbiota colonization-induced Treg cell responses are a fundamental intrinsic mechanism to induce and maintain host-intestinal microbial T cell mutualism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colon / cytology
  • Colon / immunology*
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Interleukin-10