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J Immunol. 2005 Aug 1;175(3):1551-7.

Direct stimulation of human T cells via TLR5 and TLR7/8: flagellin and R-848 up-regulate proliferation and IFN-gamma production by memory CD4+ T cells.

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  • 1Unité Mixte Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale 564, University Hospital, Angers, France.


TLRs are involved in innate cell activation by conserved structures expressed by microorganisms. Human T cells express the mRNA encoding most of TLRs. Therefore, we tested whether some TLR ligands may modulate the function of highly purified human CD4+ T lymphocytes. We report that, in the absence of APCs, flagellin (a TLR5 ligand) and R-848 (a TLR7/8 ligand) synergized with suboptimal concentrations of TCR-dependent (anti-CD3 mAb) or -independent stimuli (anti-CD2 mAbs or IL-2) to up-regulate proliferation and IFN-gamma, IL-8, and IL-10 but not IL-4 production by human CD4+ T cells. No effect of poly(I:C) and LPS, ligands for TLR3 and TLR4, respectively, was detected. We also observed that CD4+CD45RO+ memory T cell responses to TLR ligands were more potent than those observed with CD4+CD45RA+ naive T cells. Moreover, among the memory T cells, CCR7- effector cells were more sensitive to TLR ligands than CCR7+ central memory cells. These data demonstrate for the first time a direct effect of TLR5 and TLR7/8 ligands on human T cells, and highlight an innate arm in T cell functions. They also suggest that some components from invading microorganisms may directly stimulate effector memory T cells located in tissues by up-regulating cytokine and chemokine production.

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