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J Exp Med. 2001 Apr 16;193(8):981-6.

Protection from respiratory virus infections can be mediated by antigen-specific CD4(+) T cells that persist in the lungs.

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Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, New York 12983, USA.


Although CD4(+) T cells have been shown to mediate protective cellular immunity against respiratory virus infections, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. For example, although phenotypically distinct populations of memory CD4(+) T cells have been identified in different secondary lymphoid tissues, it is not known which subpopulations mediate protective cellular immunity. In this report, we demonstrate that virus-specific CD4(+) T cells persist in the lung tissues and airways for several months after Sendai virus infection of C57BL/6 mice. A large proportion of these cells possess a highly activated phenotype (CD44(hi), CD62L(lo), CD43(hi), and CD25(hi)) and express immediate effector function as indicated by the production of interferon gamma after a 5-h restimulation in vitro. Furthermore, intratracheal adoptive transfer of lung memory cells into beta2m-deficient mice demonstrated that lung-resident virus-specific CD4(+) T cells mediated a substantial degree of protection against secondary virus infection. Taken together, these data demonstrate that activated memory CD4(+) T cells persisting at mucosal sites play a critical role in mediating protective cellular immunity.

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