T cell immunodominance and maintenance of memory regulated by unexpectedly cross-reactive pathogens

Nat Immunol. 2002 Jul;3(7):627-34. doi: 10.1038/ni806. Epub 2002 Jun 3.


We show here that T cell cross-reactivity between heterologous viruses influences the immunodominance of virus-specific CD8(+) T cells by two mechanisms. First, T cells specific for cross-reactive epitopes dominate acute responses to viral infections; second, within the memory pool, T cells specific for cross-reactive epitopes are maintained while those specific for non-cross-reactive epitopes are selectively lost. These findings suggest an immunological paradigm in which viral infections shape the available T cell repertoire, causing alterations in the hierarchies of both the primary and memory CD8(+) T cell responses elicited by subsequent viral infections. Thus, immunodominance is a function of the host's previous exposure to unrelated pathogens, and this may have an impact on protective immunity and immunopathology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cricetinae
  • Cross Reactions
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology*
  • H-2 Antigens / immunology
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / immunology*
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nucleoproteins / immunology
  • Peptides / immunology
  • Pichinde virus / immunology*
  • Viral Proteins / immunology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • H-2 Antigens
  • H-2Kb protein, mouse
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Nucleoproteins
  • Peptides
  • Viral Proteins