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J Immunol. 2003 Jan 1;170(1):147-52.

Induction of telomerase activity and maintenance of telomere length in virus-specific effector and memory CD8+ T cells.

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Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Acute viral infections induce extensive proliferation and differentiation of virus-specific CD8+ T cells. One mechanism reported to regulate the proliferative capacity of activated lymphocytes is mediated by the effect of telomerase in maintaining the length of telomeres in proliferating cells. We examined the regulation of telomerase activity and telomere length in naive CD8+ T cells and in virus-specific CD8+ T cells isolated from mice infected with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. These studies reveal that, compared with naive CD8+ T cells, which express little or no telomerase activity, Ag-specific effector and long-lived memory CD8+ T cells express high levels of telomerase activity. Despite the extensive clonal expansion that occurs during acute lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus infection, telomere length is maintained in both effector and memory CD8+ T cells. These results suggest that induction of telomerase activity in Ag-specific effector and memory CD8+ T cells is important for the extensive clonal expansion of both primary and secondary effector cells and for the maintenance and longevity of the memory CD8+ T cell population.

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