The immune system is responsible for defending an organism against the myriad of microbial invaders it constantly confronts. It has become increasingly clear that the immune system has a second major function: the maintenance of organismal homeostasis. Foxp3(+)CD4(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) are important contributors to both of these critical activities, defense being the primary purview of Tregs circulating through lymphoid organs, and homeostasis ensured mainly by their counterparts residing in parenchymal tissues. This review focuses on so-called tissue Tregs. We first survey existing information on the phenotype, function, sustaining factors, and human equivalents of the three best-characterized tissue-Treg populations-those operating in visceral adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and the colonic lamina propria. We then attempt to distill general principles from this body of work-as concerns the provenance, local adaptation, molecular sustenance, and targets of action of tissue Tregs, in particular.
Keywords: adipose tissue; metabolism; microbiota; mucosal immunology; skeletal muscle; tissue repair.