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J Immunol. 2006 Jul 1;177(1):138-46.

Self-antigen maintains the innate antibacterial function of self-specific CD8 T cells in vivo.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of British Columbia, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Self-specific CD8 T cells, which are selected by high-affinity interactions with self-Ags, develop into a lineage distinct from conventional CD8 T cells. We have previously shown that these self-specific cells acquire phenotypic and functional similarities to cells of the innate immune system including the expression of functional receptors associated with NK cells. In this study, we show that these self-specific cells have the ability to produce large amounts of IFN-gamma in response to infection with Listeria monocytogenes in a bystander fashion. The rapid production of IFN-gamma is associated with a dramatic reduction in the number of viable bacteria at the peak of infection. Self-specific CD8 T cells provide only marginal innate protection in the absence of self-Ag; however, the presence of self-Ag dramatically increases their protective ability. Exposure to self-Ag is necessary for the maintenance of the memory phenotype and responsiveness to inflammatory cytokines such as IL-15. Significantly, self-specific CD8 T cells are also more efficient in the production of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, thus providing more cytokine-dependent protection against bacterial infection when compared with NK cells. These findings illustrate that self-reactive CD8 T cells can play an important innate function in the early defense against bacterial infection.

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