Mucosal Immunology (2015) 8, 969–978; doi:10.1038/mi.2015.49; published online 17 June 2015

Regulatory immune cells in regulation of intestinal inflammatory response to microbiota

M Sun1,4, C He1,2,4, Y Cong2,3 and Z Liu1

  1. 1Department of Gastroenterology, Institute for Intestinal Diseases, Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital, Tongji University, Shanghai, China
  2. 2Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA
  3. 3Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA

Correspondence: Y Cong, (; Z Liu, (

4The first two authors contributed equally to this work.

Received 23 January 2015; Accepted 4 May 2015
Advance online publication 17 June 2015



The intestinal lumen harbors nearly 100 trillion commensal bacteria that exert crucial function for health. An elaborate balance between immune responses and tolerance to intestinal microbiota is required to maintain intestinal homeostasis. This process depends on diverse regulatory mechanisms, including both innate and adaptive immunity. Dysregulation of the homeostasis between intestinal immune systems and microbiota has been shown to be associated with the development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in genetically susceptible populations. In this review, we discuss the recent progress reported in studies of distinct types of regulatory immune cells in the gut, including intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes, Foxp3+ regulatory T cells, regulatory B cells, alternatively activated macrophages, dendritic cells, and innate lymphoid cells, and how dysfunction of this immune regulatory system contributes to intestinal diseases such as IBD. Moreover, we discuss the manipulation of these regulatory immune cells as a potential therapeutic method for management of intestinal inflammatory disorders.