Immunosuppressive peptides and their therapeutic applications

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The immune system is responsible for detecting and eliminating foreign pathogens and tumor cells, but avoiding self-recognition. Therefore, tolerance mechanisms are continuously under surveillance to retain this homeostasis.

The immune system is vital for detecting and evading endogenous and exogenous threats to the body. Failure to regulate this homeostasis leads to autoimmunity, which is often associated with malfunctioning T cell signaling. Several medications are available to suppress over-reactive T lymphocytes, but many of the currently marketed drugs produce severe and life-threatening side-effects. Ribosomally synthesized peptides are gaining recognition from the pharmaceutical industry for their enhanced selectivity and decreased toxicity compared with small molecules; in particular, circular peptides exhibit remarkable stability and increased oral administration properties. For example, plant cyclotides effectively inhibit T lymphocyte proliferation. They are composed of a head-to-tail cyclized backbone and a cystine-knot motif, which confers them with remarkable stability, thus making them attractive pharmaceutical tools. 

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