CD4(+) T regulatory cells (T(regs)), which express the Foxp3 transcription factor, play a critical role in the maintenance of immune homeostasis. Here, we show that in mice, T(regs) were most abundant in the colonic mucosa. The spore-forming component of indigenous intestinal microbiota, particularly clusters IV and XIVa of the genus Clostridium, promoted T(reg) cell accumulation. Colonization of mice by a defined mix of Clostridium strains provided an environment rich in transforming growth factor-β and affected Foxp3(+) T(reg) number and function in the colon. Oral inoculation of Clostridium during the early life of conventionally reared mice resulted in resistance to colitis and systemic immunoglobulin E responses in adult mice, suggesting a new therapeutic approach to autoimmunity and allergy.
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