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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the 10th International Conference on Artificial Immune Systems (ICARIS)

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In silico investigation into dendritic cell regulation of CD8Treg mediated killing of Th1 cells in murine experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Richard A Williams1*, Richard Greaves1, Mark Read2, Jon Timmis12, Paul S Andrews1 and Vipin Kumar3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science, University of York, York, YO10 5GH, UK

2 Department of Electronics, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK

3 Laboratory of Autoimmunity, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, San Diego, CA 92121-1122, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14(Suppl 6):S9  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-S6-S9

Published: 17 April 2013



Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis has been used extensively as an animal model of T cell mediated autoimmunity. A down-regulatory pathway through which encephalitogenic CD4Th1 cells are killed by CD8 regulatory T cells (Treg) has recently been proposed. With the CD8Treg cells being primed by dendritic cells, regulation of recovery may be occuring around these antigen presenting cells. CD4Treg cells provide critical help within this process, by licensing dendritic cells to prime CD8Treg cells, however the spatial and temporal aspects of this help in the CTL response is currently unclear.


We have previously developed a simulator of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (ARTIMMUS). We use ARTIMMUS to perform novel in silico experimentation regarding the priming of CD8Treg cells by dendritic cells, and the resulting CD8Treg mediated killing of encephalitogenic CD4Th1 cells. Simulations using dendritic cells that present antigenic peptides in a mutually exclusive manner (either MBP or TCR-derived, but not both) suggest that there is no significant reliance on dendritic cells that can prime both encephalitogenic CD4Th1 and Treg cells. Further, in silico experimentation suggests that dynamics of CD8Treg priming are significantly influenced through their spatial competition with CD4Treg cells and through the timing of Qa-1 expression by dendritic cells.


There is no requirement for the encephalitogenic CD4Th1 cells and cytotoxic CD8Treg cells to be primed by the same dendritic cells. We conjecture that no significant portion of CD4Th1 regulation by Qa-1 restricted CD8Treg cells occurs around individual dendritic cells, and as such, that CD8Treg mediated killing of CD4Th1 cells occurring around dendritic cells is not critical for recovery from the murine autoimmune disease. Furthermore, the timing of the CD4Treg licensing of dendritic cells and the spatial competition between CD4Treg and CD8Treg cells around the dendritic cell is critical for the size of the cytotoxic T lymphocyte response, because dendritic cells have a limited lifespan. If treatments can be found to either speed up the licensing process, or increase the spatial competitiveness of CD8Treg cells, the magnitude of the cytotoxic T lymphocyte response can be increased.