Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Treg cells) are essential for establishing and maintaining self-tolerance, and also inhibit immune responses to innocuous environmental antigens. Imbalances and dysfunction in Treg cells lead to a variety of immune-mediated diseases, as deficits in Treg cell function contribute to the development autoimmune disease and pathological tissue damage, whereas overabundance of Treg cells can promote chronic infection and tumorigenesis. Recent studies have highlighted the fact that Treg cells themselves are a diverse collection of phenotypically and functionally specialized populations, with distinct developmental origins, antigen-specificities, tissue-tropisms, and homeostatic requirements. The signals directing the differentiation of these populations, their specificities and the mechanisms by which they combine to promote organ-specific and systemic tolerance, and how they embody the emerging property of regulatory memory are the focus of this review.
Keywords: Foxp3; T cell homeostasis; immune memory; immune tolerance; regulatory T cells.