Effector-like CD8⁺ T cells in the memory population mediate potent protective immunity

Immunity. 2013 Jun 27;38(6):1250-60. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 Jun 6.


The CD8⁺ memory T cell population is heterogeneous, and it is unclear which subset(s) optimally mediate the central goal of the immune system-protection against infection. Here we investigate the protective capacities of CD8⁺ T cell subsets present at the memory stage of the immune response. We show that a population of CD8⁺ T cells bearing markers associated with effector cells (KLRG1(hi), CD27(lo), T-bet(hi), Eomes(lo)) persisted to the memory phase and provided optimal control of Listeria monocytogenes and vaccinia virus, despite weak recall proliferative responses. After antigen-specific boosting, this population formed the predominant secondary memory subset and maintained superior pathogen control. The effector-like memory subset displayed a distinct pattern of tissue distribution and localization within the spleen, and their enhanced capacity to eliminate Listeria involved specialized utilization of cytolysis. Together, these data suggest that long-lived effector CD8⁺ T cells are optimal for protective immunity against certain pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / microbiology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Female
  • Immunity, Active
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism
  • Listeria monocytogenes / immunology*
  • Listeriosis / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Poxviridae Infections / immunology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / microbiology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / virology
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7 / metabolism
  • Vaccinia virus / immunology*


  • EOMES protein, human
  • KLRG1 protein, human
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • T-box transcription factor TBX21
  • Trans-Activators
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7