Alveolar epithelial type II cells induce T cell tolerance to specific antigen

Bernice Lo, Soren Hansen, Kathy Evans, John K. Heath, Jo Rae Wright

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The lungs face the immunologic challenge of rapidly eliminating inhaled pathogens while maintaining tolerance to innocuous Ags. A break in this immune homeostasis may result in pulmonary inflammatory diseases, such as allergies or asthma. The observation that alveolar epithelial type II cells (Type II) constitutively express the class II MHC led us to hypothesize that Type II cells play a role in the adaptive immune response. Because Type II cells do not express detectable levels of the costimulatory molecules CD80 and CD86, we propose that Type II cells suppress activation of naive T cells. Purified murine Type II cells were unable to activate T cells to specific Ag or in an alloreactive assay. Although IFN-γ treatment up-regulated class II MHC expression, it did not alter the ability of the Type II cells to activate T cells. Rather, the Type II cells were able to suppress T cells from subsequent activation to specific Ag in an Ag-dependent manner. Priming T cells with Type II cells and Ag resulted in T cells that were suppressed to further activation, even after removal from the Type II cells. Thus, Type II cells of the lung help tolerize T cells to nonpathogenic environmental Ags.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-888
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

Cite this

Lo, B., Hansen, S., Evans, K., Heath, J. K., & Wright, J. R. (2008). Alveolar epithelial type II cells induce T cell tolerance to specific antigen. Journal of Immunology, 180(2), 881-888.