Regulatory T cells play an important role in the prevention of autoimmunity and have been shown to be effective in the treatment of experimental colitis, a T cell–mediated and organ-specific disease. We previously demonstrated that intrinsic CD25+ regulatory T cells modulate the severity of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), which, in contrast to colitis, is a systemic antibody-mediated disease and an accepted model of rheumatoid arthritis. We undertook this study to determine whether regulatory T cells have the potential to be used therapeutically in arthritis.
We transferred CD4+,CD25+ T cells into mice exhibiting arthritis symptoms, both immunocompetent mice and mice subjected to lethal irradiation and rescued with syngeneic bone marrow transplantation.
A single transfer of regulatory T cells markedly slowed disease progression, which could not be attributed to losses of systemic type II collagen–specific T and B cell responses, since these remained unchanged after adoptive transfer. However, regulatory T cells could be found in the inflamed synovium soon after transfer, indicating that regulation may occur locally in the joint.
Our data indicate that CD25+ regulatory T cells can be used for the treatment of systemic, antibody-mediated autoimmune diseases, such as CIA.