Th17 and regulatory T cell balance in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases

Autoimmun Rev. 2014 Jun;13(6):668-77. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2013.12.004. Epub 2014 Jan 11.


This review focuses on the biology of T helper 17 (Th17) and regulatory T (Treg) cells and their role in inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Th17 cells represent a pro-inflammatory subset whereas Treg cells have an antagonist effect. Their developmental pathways are reciprocally interconnected and there is an important plasticity between Th17 and Treg cells. These features implicate that the Th17/Treg balance plays a major role in the development and the disease outcomes of animal model and human autoimmune/inflammatory diseases. During these diseases, this balance is disturbed and this promotes the maintenance of inflammation. Targeting the Th17/Treg imbalance can be performed at different levels such as inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines and their receptors, of pathogenic cells or their specific signaling pathways. Conversely, direct effects include administration or induction of protective cells, or stimulation of their specific pathways. Several clinical trials are underway and some positive results have been obtained.

Keywords: Autoimmune disease; Rheumatoid arthritis; Th17; Treg.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • CD4 Lymphocyte Count
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*