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J Immunol. 2007 Apr 15;178(8):4721-5.

Cutting edge: Antigen is not required for the activation and maintenance of virus-specific memory CD8+ T cells in the lung airways.

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  • 1Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, NY 12983, USA.


Respiratory virus infections establish a population of memory CD8(+) T cells in the lung airways that persist for months after infection. However, the relationship between Ag-specific memory T cells in the lung airways and the systemic memory T cell pool is not well understood. The majority of lung airway memory T cells express a highly activated phenotype (CD69(+)/CD127(-)), suggesting that recent Ag stimulation is required to drive T cell activation and recruitment to the lung airways. In this study, we demonstrate that the lung airway environment itself in the absence of cognate Ag alters the expression of acute activation markers such as CD69 and CD127 on memory CD8(+) T cells. Furthermore, the steady-state recruitment of virus-specific memory CD8(+) T cells to the lung airways from the circulation can occur without recent Ag stimulation. These findings alter the current perceptions concerning the contribution of Ag to the maintenance of peripheral T cell memory.

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