When a T cell's encounter with specific antigen results in good signaling through the T cell antigen receptor yet does not lead to a proliferative response, the T cell enters a state of nonresponsiveness, or energy. Anergy induction can result from a numbers of different situations, including antigen presentation by costimulation deficient or "non-professional" antigen presenting cells, pharmacological blocking of T cell proliferation, or chronic stimulation of the T cell receptor by antigen. Anergy is a long-lived but temporary state characterized by a profound inability of the T cell to produce IL-2. Other effector functions may be affected to variable degrees. Anergy has been characterized most carefully under in vitro conditions, but several experimental models have demonstrated that T cells can also become anergic in vivo. This mechanism for tolerance induction may help to ensure that any mature autoreactive T cells which escape thymic deletion are unable to respond to host tissues. Furthermore, an understanding of the mechanism of energy induction will most certainly lead to beneficial clinical applications, including improving graft acceptance and avoiding such deleterious immune responses as autoimmunity and allergy.
- T cell