Changes in functional but not structural avidity during differentiation of CD8+ effector cells in vivo after virus infection

J Immunol. 2012 Jul 15;189(2):638-45. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1102579. Epub 2012 Jun 15.


By the peak of the CD8(+) T cell response, the effector cell pool consists of a heterogeneous population of cells that includes both those with an increased propensity to become long-lived memory cells (memory precursor effector cells; MPEC) and those that are terminally differentiated cells (short-lived effector cells; SLEC). Numerous studies have established the critical role that functional avidity plays in determining the in vivo efficacy of CD8(+) effector cells. Currently, how functional avidity differs in MPEC versus SLEC and the evolution of this property within these two populations during the expansion and contraction of the response are unknown. The data presented in this study show that at the peak of the effector response generated after poxvirus infection, SLEC were of higher functional avidity than their MPEC counterpart. Over time, however, SLEC exhibited a decrease in peptide sensitivity. This is in contrast to MPEC, which showed a modest increase in peptide sensitivity as the response reached equilibrium. The decrease in functional avidity in SLEC was independent of CD8 modulation or the amount of Ag receptor expressed by the T cell. Instead, the loss in sensitivity was correlated with decreased expression and activation of ZAP70 and Lck, critical components of TCR membrane proximal signaling. These results highlight the potential contribution of avidity in the differentiation and evolution of the T cell effector response after viral infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / metabolism
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / virology
  • CD8 Antigens / biosynthesis*
  • CD8 Antigens / physiology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology*
  • Cell Adhesion / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cellular Senescence / immunology*
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Time Factors
  • Vaccinia virus / immunology*


  • CD8 Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell