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Immunity. 2013 Sep 19;39(3):496-507. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2013.08.034.

Antigen availability determines CD8⁺ T cell-dendritic cell interaction kinetics and memory fate decisions.

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Division of Immunology, Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


T cells are activated by antigen (Ag)-bearing dendritic cells (DCs) in lymph nodes in three phases. The duration of the initial phase of transient, serial DC-T cell interactions is inversely correlated with Ag dose. The second phase, characterized by stable DC-T cell contacts, is believed to be necessary for full-fledged T cell activation. Here we have shown that this is not the case. CD8⁺ T cells interacting with DCs presenting low-dose, short-lived Ag did not transition to phase 2, whereas higher Ag dose yielded phase 2 transition. Both antigenic constellations promoted T cell proliferation and effector differentiation but yielded different transcriptome signatures at 12 hr and 24 hr. T cells that experienced phase 2 developed long-lived memory, whereas conditions without stable contacts yielded immunological amnesia. Thus, T cells make fate decisions within hours after Ag exposure, resulting in long-term memory or abortive effector responses, correlating with T cell-DCs interaction kinetics.

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