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Eur J Immunol. 2004 Dec;34(12):3525-33.

Phenotypic heterogeneity of antigen-specific CD4 T cells under different conditions of antigen persistence and antigen load.

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Laboratory of AIDS Immunopathogenesis, Division of Immunology and Allergy, Department of Medicine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.


The factors responsible for the phenotypic heterogeneity of memory CD4 T cells are unclear. In the present study, we have identified a third population of memory CD4 T cells characterized as CD45RA(+)CCR7(-) that, based on its replication history and the homeostatic proliferative capacity, was at an advanced stage of differentiation. Three different phenotypic patterns of memory CD4 T cell responses were delineated under different conditions of antigen (Ag) persistence and load using CD45RA and CCR7 as markers of memory T cells. Mono-phenotypic CD45RA(-)CCR7(+) or CD45RA(-)CCR7(-) CD4 T cell responses were associated with conditions of Ag clearance (tetanus toxoid-specific CD4 T cell response) or Ag persistence and high load (chronic HIV-1 and primary CMV infections), respectively. Multi-phenotypic CD45RA(-)CCR7(+), CD45RA(-)CCR7(-) and CD45RA(+)CCR7(-) CD4 T cell responses were associated with protracted Ag exposure and low load (chronic CMV, EBV and HSV infections and HIV-1 infection in long-term nonprogressors). The mono-phenotypic CD45RA(-)CCR7(+) response was typical of central memory (T(CM)) IL-2-secreting CD4 T cells, the mono-phenotypic CD45RA(-)CCR7(-) response of effector memory (T(EM)) IFN-gamma-secreting CD4 T cells and the multi-phenotypic response of both IL-2- and IFN-gamma-secreting cells. The present results indicate that the heterogeneity of different Ag-specific CD4 T cell responses is regulated by Ag exposure and Ag load.

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