Natural killer (NK) cells provide an immediate first line of defence against viral infections. Memory responses, maintained by CD4(+) T cells, require exposure to viral antigen and provide long-term protection against future infections. It is known that NK cells can promote the development of the adaptive response through cytokine production and cross-talk with antigen-presenting cells. In this paper however, we summarize a series of recent publications, in mouse models and for the first time in man, with the unifying message that rapid viral antigen control by the innate immune system limits antigen exposure to CD4(+) cells thereby abrogating the development of a memory response. We discuss the significant implication of these studies on viral treatment strategies and immunization models.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.