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Lung injury induces a polarized immune response by self antigen-specific Foxp3 + regulatory T cells

Shin, DS;Ratnapriya, S;Cashin, CN;Kuhn, LF;Rahimi, RA;Anthony, RM;Moon, JJ;

Self antigen-specific T cells are prevalent in the mature adaptive immune system, but are regulated through multiple mechanisms of tolerance. However, inflammatory conditions such as tissue injury may provide these T cells with an opportunity to break tolerance and trigger autoimmunity. To understand how the T cell repertoire responds to the presentation of self antigen under highly stimulatory conditions, we used peptide:MHCII tetramers to track the behavior of endogenous CD4 + T cells with specificity to a lung-expressed self antigen in mouse models of immune-mediated lung injury. Acute injury resulted in the exclusive expansion of regulatory T cells (Tregs) that was dependent on self antigen recognition and IL-2. Conversely, conventional T cells of the same self antigen specificity remained unresponsive, even following Treg ablation. Thus, the self antigen-specific T cell repertoire is poised to serve a regulatory function during acute tissue damage to limit further damage and the possibility of autoimmunity.