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J Immunol. 2012 May 1;188(9):4145-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1200176. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Cutting edge: Asymmetric memory T cell division in response to rechallenge.

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Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Clonal selection of a T cell for use in the immune response appears to necessitate proliferative expansion and terminal effector differentiation of some cellular progeny, while reserving other progeny as less-differentiated memory cells. It has been suggested that asymmetric cell division may promote initial cell diversification. Stem cell-like models of adaptive immunity might predict that subsequent encounters with a pathogen would evoke reiterative, self-renewing, asymmetric division by memory T cells. In this study, we show that murine memory CD8(+) T cells can divide asymmetrically in response to secondary encounter with pathogen. Critical regulators of signaling and transcription are partitioned to one side of the mitotic spindle in rechallenged memory T cells, and two phenotypically distinct populations of daughter cells are evident from the earliest divisions. Memory T cells may thus use asymmetric cell division to generate cellular heterogeneity when faced with pathogen rechallenge.

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