Models of CD8+ responses: 1. What is the antigen-independent proliferation program

J Theor Biol. 2003 Apr 21;221(4):585-98. doi: 10.1006/jtbi.2003.3208.


Recent experimental results show that even brief stimulation with antigen can cause antigen-specific CD8 T-cells to undergo sustained proliferation followed by differentiation into memory cells. These results show that the dynamics of these immune responses are not governed by constant monitoring of antigen levels, but rather that following stimulation immune cells commit to a "program". At present relatively little is known about the program which governs CD8 cell proliferation and differentiation. For example, we do not know whether the program is completely specified by the initial encounter of a T cell with antigen, or whether it subsequently can be modified by the amount of antigen present. Nor do we know whether the entire program for T cell proliferation and differentiation resides within the T cell itself, or whether some component(s) of the program are determined by cells or molecules external to the CD8 cell. In this paper we construct simple mathematical models which incorporate antigen-independent proliferation and differentiation of CD8 cells during acute infections. We use these models to determine what characteristics the program must have in order to be consistent with the existing data on the dynamics of CD8 responses, and in particular to answer the questions posed above. Our results suggest that the program is not completely defined by the initial encounter of T cell with antigen but may be augmented by exposure to antigen in a brief window shortly after infection; furthermore, parts of the program may reside external to the T-cells. Finally we examine some of the consequences of the "program" for pathogen-host coevolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Division / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological*


  • Antigens