The maintenance of T cell numbers in the periphery is mediated by distinct homeostatic mechanisms that ensure the proper representation of naïve and memory T cells. Homeostatic proliferation refers to the process by which T cells in lymphopenic hosts divide in the absence of cognate antigen to reconstitute the peripheral lymphoid compartment. During this process T cells acquire effector-memory like properties, including the ability to respond to low doses of antigen in the absence of CD28 costimulation. Furthermore, this capacity is retained long after proliferation has ceased. Accumulating data implicates homeostatic proliferation in autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection, and suggests that it may represent a barrier to tolerance in protocols that use T cell depletion. Implementing combination therapies that aim to promote the development and expansion of regulatory T cell populations while specifically targeting alloresponsive T cells may be the soundest approach to attaining allograft tolerance in the aftermath of T cell depletion and homeostatic proliferation.
One contribution of 16 to a Theme Issue ‘Immunoregulation: harnessing T cell biology for therapeutic benefit’.
- © 2005 The Royal Society