Naïve cytotoxic T lymphocytes spontaneously acquire effector function in lymphocytopenic recipients: A pitfall for T cell memory studies?

Eur J Immunol. 1999 Feb;29(2):608-14. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199902)29:02<608::AID-IMMU608>3.0.CO;2-A.


Whether memory T cells require persisting antigen for their survival has been a matter of debate. One prominent view that memory T cells do not require persisting antigen is based in part on studies in which T cell populations have been transferred into antigen-free mice. To generate "space" recipients were often irradiated; the functional properties of the transfused T cells were then evaluated after prolonged periods. In this report we show that transferring cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) into irradiated or T and B cell-deficient hosts results in their proliferation and a change of their activation state. Moreover, naïve T cell receptor-transgenic CTL specific for the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus glycoprotein spontaneously developed cytotoxic effector function under such conditions. Therefore, some of the conclusions based on transfer of T cell populations into irradiated recipients to investigate T cell memory may have to be reevaluated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Lymphopenia / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*