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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 352414, 15 pages
Review Article

The Importance of the Nurse Cells and Regulatory Cells in the Control of T Lymphocyte Responses

Laboratorio de Inmunobiología, Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Ciudad Universitaria, 04510 México, DF, Mexico

Received 10 August 2012; Accepted 12 October 2012

Academic Editor: Luis I. Terrazas

Copyright © 2013 María Guadalupe Reyes García and Fernando García Tamayo. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


T lymphocytes from the immune system are bone marrow-derived cells whose development and activities are carefully supervised by two sets of accessory cells. In the thymus, the immature young T lymphocytes are engulfed by epithelial “nurse cells” and retained in vacuoles, where most of them (95%) are negatively selected and removed when they have an incomplete development or express high affinity autoreactive receptors. The mature T lymphocytes that survive to this selection process leave the thymus and are controlled in the periphery by another subpopulation of accessory cells called “regulatory cells,” which reduce any excessive immune response and the risk of collateral injuries to healthy tissues. By different times and procedures, nurse cells and regulatory cells control both the development and the functions of T lymphocyte subpopulations. Disorders in the T lymphocytes development and migration have been observed in some parasitic diseases, which disrupt the thymic microenvironment of nurse cells. In other cases, parasites stimulate rather than depress the functions of regulatory T cells decreasing T-mediated host damages. This paper is a short review regarding some features of these accessory cells and their main interactions with T immature and mature lymphocytes. The modulatory role that neurotransmitters and hormones play in these interactions is also revised.