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Nature. 2003 Feb 20;421(6925):852-6. Epub 2003 Feb 9.

CD4+ T cells are required for secondary expansion and memory in CD8+ T lymphocytes.

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Division of Cellular Immunology and Division of Developmental Immunology, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, 10355 Science Center Drive, San Diego, California 92121, USA.


A long-standing paradox in cellular immunology concerns the conditional requirement for CD4+ T-helper (T(H)) cells in the priming of cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocyte (CTL) responses in vivo. Whereas CTL responses against certain viruses can be primed in the absence of CD4+ T cells, others, such as those mediated through 'cross-priming' by host antigen-presenting cells, are dependent on T(H) cells. A clearer understanding of the contribution of T(H) cells to CTL development has been hampered by the fact that most T(H)-independent responses have been demonstrated ex vivo as primary cytotoxic effectors, whereas T(H)-dependent responses generally require secondary in vitro re-stimulation for their detection. Here, we have monitored the primary and secondary responses of T(H)-dependent and T(H)-independent CTLs and find in both cases that CD4+ T cells are dispensable for primary expansion of CD8+ T cells and their differentiation into cytotoxic effectors. However, secondary CTL expansion (that is, a secondary response upon re-encounter with antigen) is wholly dependent on the presence of T(H) cells during, but not after, priming. Our results demonstrate that T-cell help is 'programmed' into CD8+ T cells during priming, conferring on these cells a hallmark of immune response memory: the capacity for functional expansion on re-encounter with antigen.

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