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Immunity. 2008 Oct 17;29(4):650-9. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2008.07.017.

Memory inflation during chronic viral infection is maintained by continuous production of short-lived, functional T cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland, OR 97239, USA.


During persistent murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection, the T cell response is maintained at extremely high intensity for the life of the host. These cells closely resemble human CMV-specific cells, which compose a major component of the peripheral T cell compartment in most people. Despite a phenotype that suggests extensive antigen-driven differentiation, MCMV-specific T cells remain functional and respond vigorously to viral challenge. We hypothesized that a low rate of antigen-driven proliferation would account for the maintenance of this population. Instead, we found that most of these cells divided only sporadically in chronically infected hosts and had a short half-life in circulation. The overall population was supported, at least in part, by memory T cells primed early in infection, as well as by recruitment of naive T cells at late times. Thus, these data show that memory inflation is maintained by a continuous replacement of short-lived, functional cells during chronic MCMV infection.

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