CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells have been extensively studied during the last decade, but how these cells exert their regulatory function on pathogenic effector T cells remains to be elucidated. Naive CD4+ T cells transferred into T cell-deficient mice strongly expand and rapidly induce inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Onset of this inflammatory disorder depends on IFN-gamma production by expanding CD4+ T cells. Coinjection of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells protects recipient mice from IBD. In this study, we show that CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells do not affect the initial activation/proliferation of injected naive T cells as well as their differentiation into Th1 effectors. Moreover, naive T cells injected together with CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells into lymphopenic hosts are still able to respond to stimuli in vitro when regulatory T cells are removed. In these conditions, they produce as much IFN-gamma as before injection or when injected alone. Finally, when purified, they are able to induce IBD upon reinjection into lymphopenic hosts. Thus, prevention of IBD by CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells is not due to deletion of pathogenic T cells, induction of a non reactive state (anergy) among pathogenic effector T cells, or preferential induction of Th2 effectors rather than Th1 effectors; rather, it results from suppression of T lymphocyte effector functions, leading to regulated responses to self.