• T lymphocytes;
  • Tolerance;
  • Inflammation;
  • Cellular proliferation


Unfractionated CD4+ T cells from the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and peripheral lymph nodes are unresponsive when exposed to enterobacterial antigens in vitro. Under similar conditions, CD4+ T cells depleted in vivo or in vitro of CD4+CD25+ T cells proliferate extensively. The CD4+CD25 T cell reactivity depends on MHC class II presentation, specific TCR stimulation, CD4 ligation, and antigen processing by antigen-presenting cells. The CD4+CD25 T cells respond to autologousand heterologous enterobacterial antigens, but not to antigens from the feces of germ-free mice. Surprisingly, CD4+CD25 T cells obtained from the GALT of germ-free mice also proliferate when exposed to enterobacterial antigens, and adding back the conventional or germ-free CD4+CD25+ T cells to the enteroantigen-stimulated CD4+CD25 T cells abolishes proliferation. As judged from carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester-labeling experiments, 4–5% of the CD4+CD25 T cells respond to enteroantigen. The data show for the first time that CD4+CD25 T cells with reactivity towards the enterobacterial flora and regulatory CD4+CD25+ T cells are present in both conventional and germ-free mice. The data suggest that a significant proportion of the peripheral pool of CD4+CD25 T cells express anti-enterobacterial reactivity, which, due to the presence of regulatory CD4+CD25+ T cells, is kept in a quiescent state.