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J Immunol. 2003 Sep 15;171(6):2812-24.

CXCR3 is induced early on the pathway of CD4+ T cell differentiation and bridges central and peripheral functions.

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Laboratories of Clinical Investigation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Chemokine receptors on T cells are frequently categorized as functioning either in immune system homeostasis within lymphoid organs, or in peripheral inflammation. CXCR3 is in the latter category and is reported to be expressed selectively on Th1 cells. We found that CXCR3 was expressed in vivo on newly activated tonsillar CD4(+) T cells. Using CD4(+) T cells from cord blood, we found that CXCR3 was induced by cellular activation in vitro independently of the cytokine milieu, although on resting cells, expression was maintained preferentially on those that had been activated in type 1 conditions. In inflamed tonsils, CXCR3(+)CD4(+) T cells were localized around and within germinal centers. The inference that CXCR3 has a role in germinal center reactions was supported by the finding that the CXCR3 ligand CXC chemokine ligand 9 was expressed in a pattern demarcating a subset of germinal centers both in tonsil and in lymph nodes from an HIV-infected individual. We next investigated the role of CXCR3 on peripheral effector/memory CD4(+) T cells by comparing its pattern of expression with that of CCR5, another Th1-cell associated chemokine receptor. Analysis of cells directly from peripheral blood and after activation in vitro suggested that CXCR3 expression preceded that of CCR5, supporting a model of sequential induction of chemokine receptors during CD4(+) T cell differentiation. Taken together, our data show that CXCR3 can be expressed at all stages of CD4(+) T cell activation and differentiation, bridging central function in lymphoid organs and effector function in peripheral tissues.

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