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Eur J Immunol. 1998 Feb;28(2):560-9.

Constitutive expression of Bcl-xL or Bcl-2 prevents peptide antigen-induced T cell deletion but does not influence T cell homeostasis after a viral infection.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, Department of Immunology, University of Freiburg, Germany.


We examined the CD8+ T cell response to lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) in mice doubly transgenic for an LCMV-specific TCR and for either bcl-xL or bcl-2. Clonal down-sizing of the anti-viral CD8+ T cell response and the generation of T cell memory was not influenced by constitutive expression of these anti-apoptotic proteins in T cells. Expression of Bcl-xL or Bcl-2 did, however, prevent LCMV peptide-induced peripheral deletion of mature CD8+ T cells in vivo and apoptosis of activated LCMV-specific effector T cells in vitro. The CD8+ T cells "rescued" by Bcl-xL or Bcl-2 from peptide antigen-induced cell death were anergic and this could not be reversed by addition of IL-2 in vitro or by adoptive transfer into antigen-free recipient mice followed by LCMV infection in vivo. Taken together, we show here that 1) Bcl-xL or Bcl-2 are functionally equivalent in their ability to modulate CD8+ T cell survival in vivo, 2) distinct apoptosis signaling pathways exist in CD8+ T cells, one that can be inhibited by Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL and one that cannot be blocked, and 3) apoptosis of CD8+ effector T cells during the declining phase of an immune response is not prevented by constitutive expression of the anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-xL and Bcl-2.

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