Increased per cell IFN-gamma productivity indicates recent in vivo activation of T cells

Cell Immunol. 2009;258(2):131-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2009.04.002. Epub 2009 May 8.


Immunization with vaccinia virus causes long-term immunity. Efforts have been made to characterize the T cells responsible for this protection. Recently, T cell subsets were described that not only co-express multiple cytokines, but also show increased per cell cytokine productivity. These highly productive cells are often considered to be the most protective. We used ELISPOT assays to measure per cell IFN-gamma productivity of vaccinia-specific T cells in childhood immunized adults immediately before and at different time points after vaccinia re-vaccination. Apart from an increase in frequency, we found a marked increase of IFN-gamma productivity following vaccinia re-vaccination. However, these changes were short-lived as both parameters quickly returned to baseline values within 22days after re-vaccination. Therefore, increased per cell IFN-gamma productivity seems to be a sign of recent in vivo T cell activation rather than a stable marker of a distinct T cell subset responsible for long-term immune protection.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cytokines / analysis
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Secondary*
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smallpox Vaccine / immunology*
  • Species Specificity
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Subunit / immunology
  • Vaccinia virus / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Smallpox Vaccine
  • Vaccines, Subunit
  • Interferon-gamma