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J Immunol. 2004 May 15;172(10):6107-14.

The size and phenotype of virus-specific T cell populations is determined by repetitive antigenic stimulation and environmental cytokines.

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  • 1Renal Transplant Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Laboratory for Experimental Immunology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Based on the expression of the TNFR SFP CD27, two Ag-primed CD8(+) T cell subsets can be discerned in the circulation of healthy individuals: CD27(+) T cells that produce a variety of cytokines but do not display immediate cytolytic activity; and cytotoxic CD27(-) T cells, which secrete only IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. The mechanism that controls the generation of these different phenotypes is unknown. We show that CMV reactivation not only increases the number of virus-specific T cells but also induces their transition from a CD27(+) to a CD27(-) phenotype. In support of a relation between pool size and phenotype in a cohort of latently infected individuals, the number of Ag-specific CD27(-) CD8(+) T cells was found to be linearly related to the total number of CMV-specific CD8(+) T cells. In vitro studies revealed that the acquisition of the CD27(-) phenotype on CMV-specific T cells depended on the interaction of CD27 with its cellular ligand, CD70. Expression of CD70 was proportional to the amount of antigenic stimulation and blocked by the CD4(+) T cell-derived cytokine IL-21. Thus, induction of CD70, which may vary in distinct viral infections, appears to be a key factor in determining the size and phenotype of the CMV-specific T cell population in latently infected individuals.

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