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Cell Immunol. 2010;262(2):89-95. doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Feb 24.

Cytolytic CD4 cells: Direct mediators in infectious disease and malignancy.

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln, School of Biological Sciences and Nebraska Center for Virology, Lincoln, NE 68583-0900, USA.


CD4 T cells have traditionally been regarded as helpers and regulators of adaptive immune responses; however, a novel role for CD4 T cells as direct mediators of protection against viral infections has emerged. CD4 T cells with cytolytic potential have been described for almost 40 years, but their role in host protection against infectious disease is only beginning to be realized. In this review, we describe the current literature identifying these cells in patients with various infections, mouse models of viral infection and our own work investigating the development of cytolytic CD4 cells in vivo and in vitro. CD4 CTL are no longer considered an artefact of cell culture and may play a physiological role in viral infections such as EBV, CMV, HIV and influenza. Therefore, vaccine strategies aimed at targeting CD4 CTL should be developed in conjunction with vaccines incorporating B cell and CD8 CTL epitopes.

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