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To describe our current understanding of the role of T cells in the pathophysiology of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).Over the last few years, the dominant role of T cells in autoimmunity and SLE was established. Genome-wide-association studies led to the discovery of multiple single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with SLE. Most of these single-nucleotide polymorphisms fall within the noncoding DNA regions of immune response-related genes and few seem to contribute to the observed abnormal T cell function. The field of epigenetics research developed rapidly and provided us with new insights into the observed generalized hypomethylation in SLE T cells, the abnormal histone modifications and the role of RNA interference. Old observations, such as the decreased interleukin-2 production, are better understood with our evolved knowledge of many signal transduction pathways and the way they converge and regulate the transcription of different genes in T cells. Finally, we are now able to identify subpopulations of T cells, such as Th17 and T regulatory cells, and to define their role in SLE.T cells are key players in SLE, and over the last few years our understanding of their activation, signal transduction and gene regulation has evolved significantly.