CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg) play a major role in the prevention of autoimmune diseases. Converging evidence indicates that Treg specific for self-antigens expressed by target tissues have a greater therapeutic potential than polyclonal Treg. Therefore, the selective expansion of rare self-antigen-specific Treg naturally present in a polyclonal repertoire of Treg is of major importance. In this work, we investigated the potential of different dendritic cell (DC) subsets to expand antigen-specific Treg in mice. The in vitro selective expansion of rare islet-specific Treg from polyclonal Treg could only be achieved efficiently by stimulation with CD8+ splenic DC presenting islet antigens. These islet-specific Treg exerted potent bystander suppression on diabetogenic T cells and prevented type 1 diabetes. This approach opens new perspectives for cell therapy of autoimmune diseases.
See accompanying commentary: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eji.200635967