1111/j.1365-2249.2009.04040.x Development of mouse and human T helper 17 cells. Clin Exp Immunol 2009; doi:10.1111/j.1365-2249.2009.04041.x Uncommitted (naive) CD4+ T helper cells (Thp) can be induced to differentiate to specific lineages according to the local cytokine milieu, towards T helper
type 1 (Th1), Th2, Th17 and regulatory T cell (Treg) phenotypes in a mutually exclusive manner. Each phenotype is characterized by unique signalling pathways and expression of specific transcription factors, notably T-bet for Th1, GATA-3 for Th2, forkhead box P3 (FoxP3) for Tregs and receptor-related orphan receptor (ROR)α see more and RORγt for Th17 cells. Tregs and Th17 cells have been demonstrated to arise from common precursors in a reciprocal manner based on exposure to transforming growth factor (TGF)-β or TGF-β plus interleukin (IL)-6 and carry out diametrically opposing functions, namely suppression
or propagation of inflammation, respectively. However, while epigenetic modifications in Th1 and Th2 differentiated cells prevents their conversion to other phenotypes, Th17 cells generated in vitro using TGF-β and IL-6 are unstable and can convert to other phenotypes, especially Th1, both in vitro and in vivo. Tregs are generated from naive precursors both in the thymus (natural, nTregs) and in the periphery (induced, iTregs). The highly suppressive function of Tregs enables them to control many inflammatory diseases in animals and makes them particularly attractive candidates for immunotherapy in humans. AP24534 The stability of the Treg phenotype is therefore of paramount importance in this context. Recent descriptions of Treg biology have suggested that components of pathogens or inflammatory mediators may subvert the suppressive function of Tregs in order to allow propagation of adequate Thymidine kinase immune responses. Unexpectedly, however,
a number of groups have now described conversion of Tregs to the Th17 phenotype induced by appropriate inflammatory stimuli. These observations are particularly relevant in the context of cell therapy but may also explain some of the dysregulation seen in autoimmune diseases. In this paper, we review Treg to Th17 conversion and propose some potential mechanisms for this phenomenon. Random rearrangement of T cell receptor (TCR) genes in the thymus during ontogeny unsurprisingly generates some T cells with cognate specificity for self-antigens, imparting an inherent potential in the immune system for self-reactivity and autoimmune disease. While this capacity is reduced by the negative selection of autoreactive thymocytes by the AIRE (autoimmune regulator protein)-directed  ectopic expression of tissue specific antigens (TSAs) on medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) and dendritic cells (DCs) [2,3] (‘central tolerance’), this is an incomplete process, with thymic émigrés containing a proportion of autoreactive cells. As a result, the mature T cell repertoire retains the capacity for autoimmunity.