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J Immunol. 2006 Jul 15;177(2):869-76.

Divergent generation of heterogeneous memory CD4 T cells.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Division of Transplantation, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 685 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Mechanisms for the generation of memory CD4 T cells and their delineation into diverse subsets remain largely unknown. In this study, we demonstrate in two Ag systems, divergent generation of heterogeneous memory CD4 T cells from activated precursors in distinct differentiation stages. Specifically, we show that influenza hemagglutinin- and OVA-specific CD4 T cells activated for 1, 2, and 3 days, respectively, exhibit gradations of differentiation by cell surface phenotype, IFN-gamma production, and proliferation, yet all serve as direct precursors for functional memory CD4 T cells when transferred in vivo into Ag-free mouse hosts. Using a conversion assay to track the immediate fate of activated precursors in vivo, we show that day 1- to 3-activated cells all rapidly convert from an activated phenotype (CD25(high)IL-7R(low)CD44(high)) to a resting memory phenotype (IL-7R(high)CD25(low)CD44(high)) 1 day after antigenic withdrawal. Paradoxically, stable memory subset delineation from undifferentiated (day 1- to 2-activated) precursors was predominantly an effector memory (CD62L(low)) profile, with an increased proportion of central memory (CD62L(high)) T cells arising from more differentiated (day 3-activated) precursors. Our findings support a divergent model for generation of memory CD4 T cells directly from activated precursors in multiple differentiation states, with subset heterogeneity maximized by increased activation and differentiation during priming.

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