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Infect Immun. 2004 Dec;72(12):6884-91.

Bystander activation of CD8+ T lymphocytes during experimental mycobacterial infection.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia.


Infection of C57BL/6 mice with Mycobacterium avium leads to the activation of both CD4+ and CD8+ gamma interferon (IFN-gamma)-producing T cells, although the CD8+ cells play no role in protection against infection. Using transfer of different lines of transgenic T cells with T-cell receptors (TCRs) which recognize irrelevant antigens, we show here that transferred CD8+ T cells from two of the three lines were activated to the same degree as the host cells, suggesting that the majority of the IFN-gamma-producing CD8+ T cells of the host represented bystander activation. The third line, specific for the male HY antigen, showed no activation. Activation required the participation of the CD28 coreceptor on T cells and was unaffected by the removal of CD44(hi) (memory phenotype) T cells. The transferred CD8+ T cells proliferated in vivo, although this was not essential for IFN-gamma production. Taken together, these data are highly reminiscent of homeostatic proliferation of TCR transgenic T cells upon transfer to lymphopenic hosts, and suggest low-affinity stimulation through the TCR, possibly by self peptides. The findings are discussed in relation to homeostatic proliferation and their significance in the possible induction of autoimmune disease.

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