Memory CD8 T cells comprise a critical component of durable immunity because of their capacity to rapidly proliferate and exert effector activity upon Ag rechallenge. During persistent viral infection, memory CD8 T cells repetitively encounter viral Ag and must maintain a delicate balance between limiting viral replication and minimizing immunopathology. In mice infected by polyoma virus, a natural mouse pathogen that establishes long-term persistent infection, the majority of persistence-phase antiviral CD8 T cells express the inhibitory NK cell receptor CD94/NKG2A. In this study, we asked whether CD94/NKG2A expression is associated with Ag-specific recall of polyoma virus-specific CD8 T cells. During the persistent phase of infection, polyoma virus-specific CD8 T cells that express CD94/NKG2A were found to preferentially proliferate; this proliferation was dependent on cognate Ag both in vitro and in vivo. In addition, CD94/NKG2A+ polyoma-specific CD8 T cells have a markedly enhanced capacity to produce IL-2 upon ex vivo Ag stimulation compared with CD94/NKG2A- polyoma-specific CD8 T cells. Importantly, CD94/NKG2A+ anti-polyoma virus CD8 T cells appear to be essential for Ag-specific recall responses in mice persistently infected by polyoma virus. Because of its higher proliferative potential and capacity to produce IL-2, we propose that the CD94/NKG2A+ subpopulation represents a less differentiated state than the CD94/NKG2A- subpopulation. Identification of proliferation-competent subpopulations of memory CD8 T cells should prove valuable in designing therapeutic vaccination strategies for persistent viral infections.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy