Sparse production but preferential incorporation of recently produced naive T cells in the human peripheral pool

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Apr 22;105(16):6115-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0709713105. Epub 2008 Apr 17.


In mice, recent thymic emigrants (RTEs) make up a large part of the naïve T cell pool and have been suggested to be a distinct short-lived pool. In humans, however, the life span and number of RTEs are unknown. Although (2)H(2)O labeling in young mice showed high thymic-dependent daily naïve T cell production, long term up- and down-labeling with (2)H(2)O in human adults revealed a low daily production of naïve T cells. Using mathematical modeling, we estimated human naïve CD4 and CD8 T cell half-lives of 4.2 and 6.5 years, respectively, whereas memory CD4 and CD8 T cells had half-lives of 0.4 and 0.7 year. The estimated half-life of recently produced naïve T cells was much longer than these average half-lives. Thus, our data are incompatible with a substantial short-lived RTE population in human adults and suggest that the few naïve T cells that are newly produced are preferentially incorporated in the peripheral pool.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Body Water / chemistry
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Movement / immunology*
  • Deuterium Oxide / analysis
  • Granulocytes / immunology
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Isotope Labeling
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology*


  • Deuterium Oxide