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Keywords:

  • mucosal immunity;
  • regulatory T cells;
  • carcinoembryonic antigen

Abstract: One of the most remarkable aspects of the immune system is its ability to fashion an immune response most appropriate to the activating stimulus. Although the immune system possesses a number of adaptations to accomplish this, an important theme is local immune regulation by site-specific expression of receptors and ligands. One family of molecules that is gaining attention as modulators of the immune system is the carcinoembryonic antigen cell-adhesion molecule family (CEACAM). Functionally, the carcinoembryonic antigen family can mediate cell–cell contact, host–pathogen interactions, and immune regulation. For example, biliary glycoprotein (CEACAM1) can have direct activity on T cells, leading to the inhibition of helper or cytotoxic T cell function. The expression of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEACAM5) on intestinal epithelial cells is involved in the activation of populations of regulatory CD8+ T cells, while a distinct subset of regulatory CD8+ T cells is activated by nonspecific cross-reacting antigen (CEACAM6) on placental trophoblasts. Interestingly, the function and phenotype of these cells depend upon the specific member of the carcinoembryonic antigen family expressed, as well as the antigen-presenting molecule with which it associates. Thus, these glycoproteins comprise a family of molecules whose functions can depend on their nature and context.