Memory CD8(+) T cells in the lung airways provide protection from secondary respiratory virus challenge by limiting early viral replication. Here, we demonstrate that although airway-resident memory CD8(+) T cells were poorly cytolytic, memory CD8(+) T cells recruited to the airways early during a recall response showed markedly enhanced cytolytic ability. This enhanced lytic activity did not require cognate antigen stimulation, but rather was dependent on STAT1 transcription factor signaling through the interferon-alpha receptor (Ifnar1), resulting in the antigen-independent expression of granzyme B protein in both murine and human virus-specific T cells. Signaling through Ifnar1 was required for the enhanced lytic activity and control of early viral replication by memory CD8(+) T cells in the lung airways. These findings demonstrate that innate inflammatory signals act directly on memory T cells, enabling them to rapidly destroy infected host cells once they enter infected tissues.
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