Background Naturally occurring CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a critical role in the maintenance of self-tolerance and it has been suggested that these Tregs may also be involved in preventing allergic disease.
Objective The precise role of CD4+CD25+ T cells in the regulation of allergic responses to mucosal antigens remains to be elucidated. In the present study, it was investigated whether CD4+CD25+ T cells are involved in the induction of oral tolerance and whether they play a role in controlling hypersensitivity responses to food proteins.
Methods CD4+CD25+ T cells were depleted with PC61 mAb before the induction of low dose oral tolerance to peanut extract (PE). In addition, CD4+CD25+ T cell depletion was performed during sensitization or before oral challenge, using a C3H/HeOuJ mouse model of allergic sensitization to peanut.
Results Oral tolerance to PE could not be induced in CD4+CD25+ T cell-depleted mice. However, CD4+CD25+ T cell depletion during long-term exposure to PE alone did not result in allergic sensitization. In sensitized mice, anti-CD25 treatment during oral exposure resulted in higher levels of PE-specific IgE and increased mast cell degranulation upon an oral challenge. In contrast, anti-CD25 treatment of PE-sensitized mice before oral challenges did not affect the level of mast cell degranulation.
Conclusion These results indicate that CD4+CD25+ Tregs are involved in maintaining tolerance to oral antigens and regulate the intensity of an IgE-mediated food hypersensitivity response, but are not crucial in preventing sensitization. Accordingly, CD4+CD25+ Tregs may represent a potential tool for the treatment of food allergic disorders.