1*Center for Inflammation, Immunity, and Infection, Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia; and †Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
Regulatory CD4 T (Treg) cells are comprised of a heterogeneous population of cells that play a vital role in suppressing inflammation and maintaining immune tolerance. The immunoregulatory function of Treg cells is especially important in the intestine where the mucosa is exposed to a diverse array of foreign antigens-including those derived from food and commensal bacteria. Treg cells are enriched in the intestinal lamina propria and provide a crucial function in promoting tolerance to enteric antigens while modulating tissue inflammation. Correspondingly, Treg cell dysfunction is associated with a breakdown in intestinal tolerance and the induction of aberrant immune responses that may contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. This review will provide a brief overview of Treg cell biology with a focus on Foxp3 Treg and type 1 regulatory (Tr1) cells and summarize the evidence for defective Treg cells in experimental and human inflammatory bowel disease. The potential application of Treg cells as a treatment for inflammatory bowel disease will also be discussed in the context of Treg infusion therapy and the in vivo induction/expansion of intestinal Treg cells.