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J Immunol. 2013 Feb 1;190(3):970-6. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1202805. Epub 2012 Dec 19.

Recirculating memory T cells are a unique subset of CD4+ T cells with a distinct phenotype and migratory pattern.

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Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Several populations of memory T cells have been described that differ in their migration and function. In this study, we have identified a unique subset of memory T cells, which we have named recirculating memory T cells (T(RCM)). By exposing Kaede transgenic mouse skin to violet light, we tracked the fate of cutaneous T cells. One population of memory CD4(+) T cells remained in the skin. A second population migrated from the skin into draining lymph nodes (LNs) in a CCR7-dependent manner. These migrating CD4(+) T cells expressed a novel cell surface phenotype (CCR7(int/+)CD62L(int)CD69(-)CD103(+/-) E-selectin ligands(+)) that is distinct from memory T cell subsets described to date. Unlike memory T cell subsets that remain resident within tissues long-term, or that migrate either exclusively between lymphoid tissues or into peripheral nonlymphoid sites, CD4(+) T(RCM) migrate from the skin into draining LNs. From the draining LNs, CD4(+) T(RCM) reenter into the circulation, distal LNs, and sites of non-specific cutaneous inflammation. In addition, CD4(+) T(RCM) upregulated CD40L and secreted IL-2 following polyclonal stimulation. Our results identify a novel subset of recirculating memory CD4(+) T cells equipped to deliver help to both distal lymphoid and cutaneous tissues.

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