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J Immunol. 2013 Mar 1;190(5):1936-47. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1203149. Epub 2013 Jan 25.

CD8α+ dendritic cell trans presentation of IL-15 to naive CD8+ T cells produces antigen-inexperienced T cells in the periphery with memory phenotype and function.

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  • 1Integrated Department of Immunology, University of Colorado, Denver, CO 80206, USA.


Various populations of memory phenotype CD8(+) T cells have been described over the last 15-20 y, all of which possess elevated effector functions relative to naive phenotype cells. Using a technique for isolating Ag-specific cells from unprimed hosts, we recently identified a new subset of cells, specific for nominal Ag, but phenotypically and functionally similar to memory cells arising as a result of homeostatic proliferation. We show in this study that these virtual memory (VM) cells are independent of previously identified innate memory cells, arising as a result of their response to IL-15 trans presentation by lymphoid tissue-resident CD8α(+) dendritic cells in the periphery. The absence of IL-15, CD8(+) T cell expression of either CD122 or eomesodermin or of CD8a(+) dendritic cells all lead to the loss of VM cells in the host. Our results show that CD8(+) T cell homeostatic expansion is an active process within the nonlymphopenic environment, is mediated by IL-15, and produces Ag-inexperienced memory cells that retain the capacity to respond to nominal Ag with memory-like function. Preferential engagement of these VM T cells into a vaccine response could dramatically enhance the rate by which immune protection develops.

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