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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Dec 19;103(51):19454-9. Epub 2006 Dec 11.

CD27 mediates interleukin-2-independent clonal expansion of the CD8+ T cell without effector differentiation.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Immunology Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Medical Research Council Centre, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2QH, United Kingdom.


The clonal expansion of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in response to microbial infections is essential for adaptive immunity. Although IL-2 has been considered to be primarily responsible for this process, quantitatively normal expansion occurs in the absence of IL-2 receptor signaling. Here, we show that ligating CD27 on CD8+ T cells that have been stimulated through the T cell receptor causes their expansion in the absence of IL-2 by mediating two distinct cellular processes: enhancing cell cycling and promoting cell survival by maintaining the expression of IL-7 receptor alpha. This pathway for clonal expansion of the CD8+ T cell is not associated with the development of a capacity either for production of IFN-gamma or for cytotoxic T lymphocyte function and, therefore, is uncoupled from differentiation. Furthermore, ligating CD27 increases the threshold concentration at which IL-2 induces IFN-gamma-producing capability by the CD8+ T cell, suggesting that CD27 signaling may suppress effector differentiation. Finally, CD8+ T cells that have been stimulated by the TCR/CD27 pathway maintain their capacity for subsequent expansion and effector differentiation in response to a viral challenge in vivo. Thus, the TCR/CD27 pathway enables the CD8+ T cell to replicate by a process of self-renewal, which may contribute to the continuous generation of new effector CD8+ T cells in persistent viral infections.

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