Depletion of Foxp3(+) CD4(+) regulatory T cells (Treg) in adults results in chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. However, the impact of transient Treg-cell depletion on self-reactive responses is poorly defined. Here, we studied the effect of transient depletion of Treg cells on CD4(+) T-cell responses to endogenous self-antigens. Short-term ablation of Treg cells in mice resulted in rapid activation of CD4(+) T cells, increased percentage of IFN-γ(+) and Th17 cells in lymphoid organs, and development of autoimmune gastritis. To track self-reactive responses, we analyzed the activation of naïve gastric-specific CD4(+) T cells. There was a dramatic increase in proliferation and acquisition of effector function of gastric-specific T cells in the stomach draining LNs of Treg-cell-depleted mice, compared with untreated mice, either during Treg-cell depletion or after Treg-cell reconstitution. Moreover, the hyperproliferation of gastric-specific T cells in the Treg-cell-ablated mice was predominantly antigen-dependent. Transient depletion of Treg cells resulted in a shift in the ratio of peripheral:thymic Treg cells in the reemerged Treg-cell population, indicating an altered composition of Treg cells. These findings indicate that transient Treg-cell depletion results in ongoing antigen-driven self-reactive T-cell responses and emphasize the continual requirement for an intact Treg-cell population.
Keywords: Autoimmune gastritis; Foxp3; Gastric H/K ATPase; Immune homeostasis; Regulatory T (Treg) cells.
© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.