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Sci Immunol. 2019 Apr 12;4(34). pii: eaav1730. doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aav1730.

Modulation of asymmetric cell division as a mechanism to boost CD8+ T cell memory.

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Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zürich, Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 4, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland.
Institute of Biochemistry, ETH Zürich, Otto-Stern-Weg 3, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland.
Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zürich, Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 4, 8093 Zürich, Switzerland.


Asymmetric partitioning of fate determinants is a mechanism that contributes to T cell differentiation. However, it remains unclear whether the ability of T cells to divide asymmetrically is influenced by their differentiation state, as well as whether enforcing asymmetric cell division (ACD) rates would have an impact on T cell differentiation and memory formation. Using the murine LCMV infection model, we established a correlation between cell stemness and the ability of CD8+ T cells to undergo ACD. Transient mTOR inhibition was proven to increase ACD rates in naïve and memory cells and to install this ability in exhausted CD8+ T cells. Functionally, enforced ACD correlated with increased memory potential, leading to more efficient recall response and viral control upon acute or chronic LCMV infection. Moreover, transient mTOR inhibition also increased ACD rates in human CD8+ T cells. Transcriptional profiling revealed that progenies emerging from enforced ACD exhibited more pronounced early memory signatures, which functionally endowed these cells with better survival in the absence of antigen exposure and more robust homing to secondary lymphoid organs, providing critical access to survival niches. Our data provide important insights into how ACD can improve long-term survival and function of T cells and open new perspectives for vaccination and adoptive T cell transfer therapies.


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