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J Immunol. 2008 Jan 1;180(1):171-8.

Loss of IL-7R and IL-15R expression is associated with disappearance of memory T cells in respiratory tract following influenza infection.

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  • 1Center for Cancer Research and Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Following influenza virus infection, memory CD8 T cells are found in both lymphoid and nonlymphoid organs, where they exhibit striking differences in survival. We have assessed persistence, phenotype, and function of memory CD8 T cells expressing the same TCR in the airways, lung parenchyma, and spleen following influenza virus infection in mice. In contrast to memory CD8 T cells in the spleen, those residing in the airways gradually lost expression of IL-7R and IL-15R, did not respond to IL-7 and/or IL-15, and exhibited poor survival both in vivo and in vitro. Following adoptive transfer into the airways, splenic memory CD8 T cells also down-regulated IL-7R and IL-15R expression and failed to undergo homeostatic proliferation. Thus, although cytokines IL-7 and IL-15 play an essential role in memory CD8 T cell homeostasis in lymphoid organs, the levels of IL-7R and IL-15R expression likely set a threshold for the homeostatic regulation of memory CD8 T cells in the airways. These findings provide a molecular explanation for the gradual loss of airway memory CD8 T cells and heterosubtypic immunity following influenza infection.

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