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Immunol Lett. 2011 Sep 30;139(1-2):25-32. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2011.04.011. Epub 2011 May 20.

Interleukin-2 rescues helpless effector CD8+ T cells by diminishing the susceptibility to TRAIL mediated death.

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Department of Cellular Immunology, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, 9420 Athena Circle, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


CD8(+) T cells primed in the absence of CD4(+) T cell help are programmed to produce TRAIL, which results in Death receptor (DR5) mediated apoptosis upon restimulation. Here, we studied whether these 'helpless' effector CD8(+) T cells are consigned to an apoptotic fate or whether their helpless program can be altered by inflammatory or growth cytokines. We found that helpless CD8(+) T cells regained their full proliferative and functional capacity only when IL-2 was added to cell cultures, while IL-7 and IL-15, two common gamma chain cytokines associated with CD8(+) T cell homeostasis and memory, could only partly restore secondary expansion in helpless CD8(+) T cells. Recovery of functional CD8(+) T cell immunity by IL-2 was concomitant with induction of IL2Rα (CD25) expression, downregulation of TRAIL, and the upregulation of anti-apoptotic molecules Bcl-2 and FLIP. The addition of IL-2 to helpless CD8(+) T cells also interfered with DR5-mediated apoptosis induction, indicating that IL-2 affects several components of the TRAIL-DR5 pathway. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the helpless phenotype is not fixed, and that IL-2R signaling at the time of reactivation can play an important role in restoring CD8(+) T cell function.

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