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J Immunol. 2002 Nov 1;169(9):4976-81.

Long-term maintenance of virus-specific effector memory CD8+ T cells in the lung airways depends on proliferation.

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Trudeau Institute, Saranac Lake, NY 12983, USA.


Recent studies have shown that virus-specific effector memory T cells can be recovered from the lung airways long after clearance of a respiratory virus infection. These cells are thought to play an important role in the recall response to secondary viral infection. It is currently unclear whether these cells actually persist at this site or are maintained by continual proliferation and recruitment. In this study, we have analyzed the mechanisms underlying the persistence of memory CD8(+) T cells in the lung airway lumina following recovery from a respiratory virus infection. The data identify two distinct populations of memory cells. First, a large population Ag-specific CD8(+) T cells is deposited in the airways during the acute response to the virus. These cells persist in a functional state for several weeks with minimal further division. Second, a smaller population of Ag-specific CD8(+) T cells is maintained in the lung airways by homeostatic proliferation and migration to lung airways after viral clearance. This rate of proliferation is identical to that observed in the spleen, suggesting that these cells may be recent immigrants from the lymphoid organs. These data have significant implications for vaccines designed to promote cellular immunity at mucosal sites such as the lung.

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