Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) were initially identified in humans and mice with cancer where they profoundly suppress T cell– and NK cell–mediated antitumor immunity. Inflammation is a central feature of many pathologies and normal physiological conditions and is the dominant driving force for the accumulation and function of MDSCs. Therefore, MDSCs are present in conditions where inflammation is present. Although MDSCs are detrimental in cancer and conditions where cellular immunity is desirable, they are beneficial in settings where cellular immunity is hyperactive. Because MDSCs can be generated ex vivo, they are being exploited as therapeutic agents to reduce damaging cellular immunity. In this review, we discuss the detrimental and beneficial roles of MDSCs in disease settings such as bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, sepsis, obesity, trauma, stress, autoimmunity, transplantation and graft-versus-host disease, and normal physiological settings, including pregnancy and neonates as well as aging. The impact of MDSCs on vaccination is also discussed.

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