Selection of regulatory T cells in the thymus

Nat Rev Immunol. 2012 Feb 10;12(3):157-67. doi: 10.1038/nri3155.


The generation of regulatory T (T(Reg)) cells in the thymus is crucial for immune homeostasis and self-tolerance. Recent discoveries have revealed the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the differentiation of a subset of developing thymocytes into natural T(Reg) cells. Several models, centred on the self-reactivity of the T cell receptor (TCR), have been proposed to explain the generation of a T(Reg) cell population that is cognizant of self. Several molecular pathways link TCR and cytokine signalling with the expression of the T(Reg) cell-associated transcription factor forkhead box P3 (FOXP3). Moreover, interplay between thymocytes and thymic antigen-presenting cells is also involved in T(Reg) cell generation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Self Tolerance / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell