Foxp3+ Regulatory T Cells in Tuberculosis

  • Ryan P. Larson
  • Shahin Shafiani
  • Kevin B. UrdahlEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 783)


The immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) must be tightly regulated to mount a sufficient response to limit bacterial growth and dissemination while avoiding excessive inflammation that could damage host tissues. A wide variety of cell types, cell surface molecules, and cytokines are likely to contribute to this regulation, but recent studies have revealed that a subset of CD4 T cells expressing the transcription factor Foxp3, called regulatory T (reg) cells, play a critical role [1, 2, 3]. Although the first reports of T reg cells in tuberculosis (TB) occurred only recently (i.e., 2006) [4, 5], we have already gained many insights into their activity during TB. While it is likely that T reg cells do play some beneficial roles by preventing inflammation-mediated damage to host tissues during TB, this aspect of their function has not been well studied to date. What is clear, however, is that during the initial T cell response to Mtb infection, Mtb induces the expansions of T reg cells that delay the onset of adaptive immunity, suggesting that Mtb has hijacked T reg cell-mediated immune suppression to allow it to replicate unabated in the lung until T cells finally arrive [6]. In this chapter, we will first provide an overview of the delayed T cell response to Mtb and a brief introduction to regulatory T cells. We will then review what is known about T reg cells from observations in human populations, discuss mechanistic insights revealed in the mouse model, and speculate about the relevance of this understanding for future efforts to prevent and treat TB.


Regulatory T cells Delayed T cell response Macrophages Neutrophils Foxp3 IPEX syndrome T reg cell proliferation T reg cells in vivo Leishmania infection DCs T reg cell epitopes BCG vaccine 



Supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health: R01 AI076327 (KBU) and T32 AI 007411-19 (RPL).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan P. Larson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shahin Shafiani
    • 1
  • Kevin B. Urdahl
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Tuberculosis ProgramSeattle Biomedical Research InstituteSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of ImmunologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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