Stimulation of naïve and memory T cells by cytokines

Immunol Rev. 1999 Aug;170:39-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065x.1999.tb01327.x.


On the basis of cell surface markers, mature T cells are considered to have either a naïve or a memory phenotype. These cells exhibit distinct types of kinetic behaviour in vivo. While naïve-phenotype cells persist long term in a non-dividing state, memory-phenotype T cells include cycling cells and exhibit a more rapid rate of turnover; this has also been shown to be true for cells that can be definitively identified as naïve or memory T cells respectively. The number of memory-phenotype (CD44hi) CD8+ T cells entering cell cycle is greatly increased after in vivo exposure to viruses, bacteria or components of bacteria. Accelerated turnover of memory T cells also occurs after the injection of a variety cytokines that are induced by infectious agents, including type I interferon (IFN-I). Although naïve-phenotype T cells do not divide in response to these cytokines, they do exhibit signs of activation, including upregulation of CD69 after exposure to IFN-I. These findings suggest that the dissimilar in vivo kinetics of naïve- and memory-phenotype T cells might reflect their divergent responses to cytokines. Furthermore, the ability of infection-induced cytokines to stimulate non-specific proliferation of memory-phenotype T cells and partial activation of naïve-phenotype T cells implies that they play a complex role during primary immune responses to infectious agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Interferon Type I / pharmacology
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Cytokines
  • Interferon Type I
  • Recombinant Proteins