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Critical Reviews™ in Immunology
IF: 1.352 5-Year IF: 3.347 SJR: 0.657 SNIP: 0.55 CiteScore™: 2.19

ISSN Print: 1040-8401
ISSN Online: 2162-6472

Critical Reviews™ in Immunology

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.v20.i2.20
18 pages

Tolerance and Immunity in the Intestinal Immune System

Cathryn Nagler-Anderson
Mucosal Immunology Laboratory, Room 3308, Pediatric G.I., 3 West, Mass. General Hospital East and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129


The intestinal immune system must guard the body against invasion by pathogens while avoiding a response to the many potential antigens present in food. In the absence of the inflammatory stimuli necessary to elicit an immune response, oral administration of soluble protein antigens induces antigen-specific systemic nonresponsiveness. Recent studies have shown that peripheral nonresponsiveness to orally administered antigen is preceded by transient T-cell activation and is due primarily to the induction of functional T-cell anergy. The microenvironment of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue plays a central role in orally induced nonresponsiveness by supporting the growth of regulatory T cells that maintain intestinal homeostasis in the face of constant antigenic challenge. The transfer of nonresponsiveness by peripheral T cells from antigen-fed mice suggests that these gut-derived regulatory cells also function in peripheral sites. When oral antigens are presented with adjuvants (microbial products that activate the innate immune system) an adaptive immune response is induced to this normally tolerogenic form of antigen. This review examines recent work that has provided new insight into the regulation of tolerance and immunity in the intestinal immune system.

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