Cross-dressed dendritic cells drive memory CD8+ T-cell activation after viral infection

Nature. 2011 Mar 31;471(7340):629-32. doi: 10.1038/nature09863.


After an infection, cytotoxic T lymphocyte precursors proliferate and become effector cells by recognizing foreign peptides in the groove of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules expressed by antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Professional APCs specialized for T-cell activation acquire viral antigen either by becoming infected themselves (direct presentation) or by phagocytosis of infected cells, followed by transfer of antigen to the cytosol, processing and MHC class I loading in a process referred to as cross-presentation. An alternative way, referred to as 'cross-dressing', by which an uninfected APC could present antigen was postulated to be by the transfer of preformed peptide-MHC complexes from the surface of an infected cell to the APC without the need of further processing. Here we show that this mechanism exists and boosts the antiviral response of mouse memory CD8(+) T cells. A number of publications have demonstrated sharing of peptide-loaded MHC molecules in vitro. Our in vitro experiments demonstrate that cross-dressing APCs do not acquire peptide-MHC complexes in the form of exosomes released by donor cells. Rather, the APCs and donor cells have to contact each other for the transfer to occur. After a viral infection, we could isolate cross-dressed APCs able to present viral antigen in vitro. Furthermore, using the diphtheria toxin system to selectively eliminate APCs that could only acquire viral peptide-MHC complexes by cross-dressing, we show that such presentation can promote the expansion of resting memory T cells. Notably, naive T cells were excluded from taking part in the response. Cross-dressing is a mechanism of antigen presentation used by dendritic cells that may have a significant role in activating previously primed CD8(+) T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology*
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Diphtheria Toxin
  • Exosomes
  • Female
  • H-2 Antigens / immunology
  • H-2 Antigens / metabolism
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology*
  • Immunological Synapses
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus / immunology
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Protein Transport
  • Vesiculovirus / immunology
  • Vesiculovirus / physiology
  • Virus Diseases / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / virology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Diphtheria Toxin
  • H-2 Antigens