Skip to main content
  • Oral presentation
  • Open access
  • Published:

Inducing a tolerogenic microenvironment within tissues

The maintenance of tolerance to both self tissues foreign organ grafts depends on the activity of foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg). We have used MHC-matched skin grafts as a model system to study how such Treg can be induced therapeutically and the mechanisms by which they act. Using monospecific TCR transgenic mice we have shown that a short treatment with monoclonal antibodies that block full T cell activation in vivo allows the targeted tissue to itself induce de novo, antigen specific, foxp3+ Treg (iTreg) [1]. We also show that these iTreg are not only concentrated within the target tissue, but are continuously required to suppress the activity of primed effector cells also present within the tissue [2]. When taken together with previous findings of linked suppression and infectious tolerance [3], the evidence suggests that tolerance maintained by iTreg is dependent on a local, tolerogenic microenviroment within the tissue. One component of this microenvironment is the induction, by both innate inflammation and iTreg, of multiple enzymes that consume essential amino acids, including tryptophan, arginine and valine. Local amino acid depletion can be sensed by naïve and effector T cells, via the mammalian target of the immunosuppressive drug rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, which can synergise with TGFβ for the further induction of foxp3+ iTreg [4]. TGFβ is also able to up-regulate the ectoenzymes CD39 and CD73 both on T cells and antigen presenting cells to catabolise inflammatory ATP to anti-inflammatory adenosine [5]. Microarray analysis of tolerated and control skin grafts for patterns of gene expression associated with the tolerogenic microenvironment confirms that these mechanisms are preferentially active locally within the tolerated tissues rather than throughout the systemic lymphoid system. Of particular interest, these same mechanisms seem to be active in grafted syngeneic tissues [6], suggesting that iTreg maintained microenvironments are important for maintaining self tolerance in the face of an inflammatory insult. The challenge now is how we can exploit appropriate combinations of T cell blockade, mTOR inhibition and TGFβ activation for translation to the clinic.


  1. Cobbold SP, Castejon R, Adams E, Zelenika D, Graca L, Humm S, Waldmann H: Induction of foxp3+ regulatory T cells in the periphery of T cell receptor transgenic mice tolerized to transplants. J Immunol. 2004, 172: 6003-6010.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Kendal AR, Chen Y, Regateiro F, Ma J, Adams E, Cobbold SP, Hori S, Waldmann H: Sustained vigilance of Foxp3+ T cells is vital for infectious tolerance in vivo. J Exp Med. 2011,

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cobbold SP, Adams E, Nolan KF, Regateiro FS, Waldmann H: Connecting the mechanisms of T cell regulation: dendritic cells as the missing link. Immunological Reviews. 2010, 236: 203-218. 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2010.00913.x.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Cobbold SP, Adams E, Farquhar CA, Nolan KF, Howie D, Lui KO, Fairchild PJ, Mellor AL, Ron D, Waldmann H: Infectious tolerance via the consumption of essential amino acids and mTOR signaling. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2009, 106 (29): 12055-60. 10.1073/pnas.0903919106.

    Article  PubMed Central  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Regateiro FS, Howie D, Agorogiannis EI, Greaves DR, Cobbold SP, Waldmann H: CD73 expression and adenosine generation are controlled by TGF-β and modulated by inflammatory cytokines. Eur J Immunol. 2011,

    Google Scholar 

  6. Cobbold SP, Adams E, Waldmann H: Biomarkers of transplantation tolerance: more hopeful than helpful?. Front Immun. 2011, 2: 9-p. 1-8. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2011.00009

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephen P Cobbold.

Rights and permissions

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cobbold, S.P. Inducing a tolerogenic microenvironment within tissues. Arthritis Res Ther 13 (Suppl 2), O2 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: