A T cell clone's avidity is a function of its activation state

J Immunol. 2001 Aug 1;167(3):1353-61. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.167.3.1353.


At present it is unclear how Ag dose-dependent T cell functions, such as cytokine production, reflect TCR affinity and how the signal strength afforded by the Ag dose affects the kinetics of cytokine production by the individual T cell. We used a computer-assisted ELISPOT approach to address these issues. IFN-gamma release by a clonal population of CD4 T cells was monitored on a clonal population of APC while titrating the nominal peptide. The frequency of cytokine-producing cells, the net per-cell output of cytokine, and the onset of cytokine production were each found to be functions of the signal strength. Sigmoidal dose-response curves were seen at the clonal population level, but the activation thresholds for the individual T cells followed a Gaussian distribution. Moreover, the overall dose-response curve of the T cell clone revealed cyclic changes, becoming increasingly shifted toward lower Ag concentrations with the duration of time that elapsed since the last restimulation with Ag. Therefore, responsiveness to Ag ("functional avidity") is not a constant parameter of a T cell clone but a function of the T cell's history of last Ag encounter. The implications of such shifting activation thresholds are discussed for autoimmune disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Clone Cells
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / immunology
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Peptide Fragments / immunology
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Cytokines
  • Hemagglutinin Glycoproteins, Influenza Virus
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Interferon-gamma