Visualizing the generation of memory CD4 T cells in the whole body

Nature. 2001 Mar 1;410(6824):101-5. doi: 10.1038/35065111.


It is thought that immunity depends on naive CD4 T cells that proliferate in response to microbial antigens, differentiate into memory cells that produce anti-microbial lymphokines, and migrate to sites of infection. Here we use immunohistology to enumerate individual naive CD4 T cells, specific for a model antigen, in the whole bodies of adult mice. The cells resided exclusively in secondary lymphoid tissues, such as the spleen and lymph nodes, in mice that were not exposed to antigen. After injection of antigen alone into the blood, the T cells proliferated, migrated to the lungs, liver, gut and salivary glands, and then disappeared from these organs. If antigen was injected with the microbial product lipopolysaccharide, proliferation and migration were enhanced, and two populations of memory cells survived for months: one in the lymph nodes that produced the growth factor interleukin-2, and a larger one in the non-lymphoid tissues that produced the anti-microbial lymphokine interferon-gamma. These results show that antigen recognition in the context of infection generates memory cells that are specialized to proliferate in the secondary lymphoid tissues or to fight infection at the site of microbial entry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Spleen / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / transplantation
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Ovalbumin