CD8 lethargy in the absence of CD4 help

Eur J Immunol. 2002 Aug;32(8):2199-207. doi: 10.1002/1521-4141(200208)32:8<2199::AID-IMMU2199>3.0.CO;2-L.


CD4 T cell help was proposed to have a pivotal role in orienting CD8 T cell responses to antigen stimulation. By activating antigen-presenting cells (APC), CD4 cells would induce their expression of costimulatory molecules, the "signal two" required to induce full CD8 activation, preventing CD8 tolerance. Recent data on this subject is contradictory, as the absence of help did not always result in CD8 tolerance. These differences were attributed either to the presence of residual CD4 help or, respectively to the type of antigen stimulation, the peptide affinity, the CTL frequencies, and/or the strength of the response. We therefore reassessed the role of CD4 help in CD8 responses using a system where CD4 cells are absent and APC not activated. This system can be manipulated to induce CD8 tolerance (at high antigen concentrations) or CD8 memory (at low antigen concentrations). We found that the presence of CD4 help did not prevent tolerance induction. On the other hand, the absence of CD4 help did not induce CD8 tolerance, but rather led to differentiation stage intermediate between naive/memory/tolerant cells that we call "lethargy". These findings indicate that role of CD4 help in CD8 responses does not follow a simple on-off rule, as previously suggested. They also reveal that the "tolerance versus memory" dichotomy fails to account for all possible states/properties of antigen-experienced CD8 cells. Depending on the priming conditions, other intermediate stages of differentiation may occur.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Female
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL