The battle against immunopathology: infectious tolerance mediated by regulatory T cells

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2012 Jun;69(12):1997-2008. doi: 10.1007/s00018-011-0907-z. Epub 2011 Dec 29.


Infectious tolerance is a process whereby one regulatory lymphoid population confers suppressive capacity on another. Diverse immune responses are induced following infection or inflammatory insult that can protect the host, or potentially cause damage if not properly controlled. Thus, the process of infectious tolerance may be critical in vivo for exerting effective immune control and maintaining immune homeostasis by generating specialized regulatory sub-populations with distinct mechanistic capabilities. Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (T(regs)) are a central mediator of infectious tolerance through their ability to convert conventional T cells into induced regulatory T cells (iT(regs)) directly by secretion of the suppressive cytokines TGF-β, IL-10, or IL-35, or indirectly via dendritic cells. In this review, we will discuss the mechanisms and cell populations that mediate and contribute to infectious tolerance, with a focus on the intestinal environment, where tolerance induction to foreign material is critical.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Helminthiasis / immunology
  • Helminthiasis / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Infections / immunology*
  • Infections / microbiology
  • Infections / parasitology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestines / immunology*
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse