Viewing immune regulation as it happens:in vivoimaging for investigation of regulatory T-cell function

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Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play indispensable roles in the immune system, in limiting excessive or inappropriate immune and inflammatory responses. They achieve this function via effects on other immune cells in the secondary lymphoid system, and in peripheral locations such as skin, gut and bone marrow. As for the more extensively studied cellular players in the immune system, particularly dendritic cells and conventional T cells, in vivo imaging of Tregs via two-photon (or multiphoton) microscopy (MPM) has been central to the development of understanding how these cells function. In this brief review, we will describe the studies that have utilised MPM to examine Treg behaviour in vivo. These studies have investigated Treg behaviour in lymph nodes and spleen, as well as in peripheral organs such as skin, small intestine and bone marrow. The findings from these experiments underline how assumptions made about Treg function based on results of in vitro experiments are often not supported by direct visualisation of these cells in their normal in vivo settings. Together this work reveals that only via MPM analysis can Treg function be investigated in the complicated multicellular environments where conventional T cells, antigenpresenting cells and other potential cellular targets of Tregs are present with each undergoing their own specific actions.

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