T cell immunity to oral allergens

Curr Opin Immunol. 1998 Dec;10(6):620-7. doi: 10.1016/s0952-7915(98)80079-4.


Considerable light has been thrown on the mechanisms of oral tolerance (or, more correctly, orally-induced systemic tolerance) in the past 12-18 months. While it is very clear that T cell anergy and apoptosis can occur after being fed antigen, a major pathway that has been described in different models is the induction of regulatory T cells which secrete transforming growth factor beta. These cells have been designated Th3 cells but their relation to the in-vitro-generated Tr cells, which inhibit tissue-damaging T cell responses in the gut mucosa, is not known. An important discovery is that food antigens have major systemic effects on T cells, similar in many ways to those seen following intravenous injection of soluble antigens. This conceptually moves us away from the notion that there is something special about mucosal (compared to systemic) lymphoid tissue to the notion that it is the type of antigens seen in the gut (i.e. digested, soluble polypeptides) which dictates the types of response seen there. After initial excitement, clinical trials using oral tolerance to treat autoimmune disease have been somewhat disappointing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphoid Tissue
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology


  • Allergens
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta