Memory CD4 T cells emerge from effector T-cell progenitors

Nature. 2008 Mar 20;452(7185):356-60. doi: 10.1038/nature06672. Epub 2008 Mar 5.


A hallmark of adaptive immunity is the generation of memory T cells that confer long-lived, antigen-specific protection against repeat challenges by pathogens. Understanding the mechanisms by which memory T cells arise is important for rational vaccination strategies and improved therapeutic interventions for chronic infections and autoimmune disorders. The large clonal expansion of CD8 T cells in response to some infections has made the development of CD8 T-cell memory more amenable to study, giving rise to a model of memory cell differentiation in which a fraction of fully competent effector T cells transition into long-lived memory T cells. Delineation of CD4 T-cell memory development has proved more difficult as a result of limitations on tracking the smaller populations of CD4 effector T cells generated during a pathogenic challenge, complicating efforts to determine whether CD4 memory T cells are direct descendants of effector T cells or whether they develop by alternative pathways. Here, using two complementary cytokine reporter mouse models to identify interferon (IFN)-gamma-positive effector T cells and track their fate, we show that the lineage relationship between effector and memory CD4 T cells resembles that for CD8 T cells responding to the same pathogen. We find that, in parallel with effector CD8 T cells, IFN-gamma-positive effector CD4 T cells give rise to long-lived memory T cells capable of anamnestic responses to antigenic rechallenge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Clone Cells / cytology
  • Clone Cells / immunology
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / immunology


  • Antigens
  • Interferon-gamma