Tissue maintenance and homeostasis can be achieved through the replacement of dying cells by differentiating precursors or self-renewal of terminally differentiated cells or relies heavily on cellular longevity in poorly regenerating tissues. Regulatory T cells (T(reg) cells) represent an actively dividing cell population with critical function in suppression of lethal immune-mediated inflammation. The plasticity of T(reg) cells has been actively debated because it could factor importantly in protective immunity or autoimmunity. By using inducible labeling and tracking of T(reg) cell fate in vivo, or transfers of highly purified T(reg) cells, we have demonstrated notable stability of this cell population under physiologic and inflammatory conditions. Our results suggest that self-renewal of mature T(reg) cells serves as a major mechanism of maintenance of the T(reg) cell lineage in adult mice.
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