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Nat Immunol. 2002 Jul;3(7):627-34. Epub 2002 Jun 3.

T cell immunodominance and maintenance of memory regulated by unexpectedly cross-reactive pathogens.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Progranm in Immunology and Virology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


We show here that T cell cross-reactivity between heterologous viruses influences the immunodominance of virus-specific CD8(+) T cells by two mechanisms. First, T cells specific for cross-reactive epitopes dominate acute responses to viral infections; second, within the memory pool, T cells specific for cross-reactive epitopes are maintained while those specific for non-cross-reactive epitopes are selectively lost. These findings suggest an immunological paradigm in which viral infections shape the available T cell repertoire, causing alterations in the hierarchies of both the primary and memory CD8(+) T cell responses elicited by subsequent viral infections. Thus, immunodominance is a function of the host's previous exposure to unrelated pathogens, and this may have an impact on protective immunity and immunopathology.

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