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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37991. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037991. Epub 2012 May 23.

Activated iNKT cells promote memory CD8+ T cell differentiation during viral infection.

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Division of Biology and Medicine, Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology and Graduate Program in Pathobiology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.


α-Galactosylceramide (α-GalCer) is the prototypical lipid ligand for invariant NKT cells. Recent studies have proposed that α-GalCer is an effective adjuvant in vaccination against a range of immune challenges, however its mechanism of action has not been completely elucidated. A variety of delivery methods have been examined including pulsing dendritic cells with α-GalCer to optimize the potential of α-GalCer. These methods are currently being used in a variety of clinical trials in patients with advanced cancer but cannot be used in the context of vaccine development against pathogens due to their complexity. Using a simple delivery method, we evaluated α-GalCer adjuvant properties, using the mouse model for cytomegalovirus (MCMV). We measured several key parameters of the immune response to MCMV, including inflammation, effector, and central memory CD8(+) T cell responses. We found that α-GalCer injection at the time of the infection decreases viral titers, alters the kinetics of the inflammatory response, and promotes both increased frequencies and numbers of virus-specific memory CD8(+) T cells. Overall, our data suggest that iNKT cell activation by α-GalCer promotes the development of long-term protective immunity through increased fitness of central memory CD8(+) T cells, as a consequence of reduced inflammation.

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