Credit: S. Bradbrook / Springer Nature Limited

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are crucial in maintenance of immune homeostasis. In 2013, three studies found that microbiota-derived short-chain fatty acids promote the expansion and differentiation of Tregs, revealing a form of chemical-mediated communication between the commensal microbiota and the immune system that affects immune mechanisms.

Further reading

Tanoue, T., Atarashi, K. & Honda, K. Development and maintenance of intestinal regulatory T cells. Nat. Rev. Immunol. 16, 295–309 (2016).

Round, J. L. & Mazmanian, S. K. Inducible Foxp3+ regulatory T-cell development by a commensal bacterium of the intestinal microbiota. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 12204–12209 (2010).

Geuking, M. B. et al. Intestinal bacterial colonization induces mutualistic regulatory T cell responses. Immunity 34, 794–806 (2011).

Lathrop, S. K. et al. Peripheral education of the immune system by colonic commensal microbiota. Nature 478, 250–254 (2011).