Dynamic functional modulation of CD4+ T cell recall responses is dependent on the inflammatory environment of the secondary stimulus

PLoS Pathog. 2014 May 22;10(5):e1004137. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1004137. eCollection 2014 May.


The parameters that modulate the functional capacity of secondary Th1 effector cells are poorly understood. In this study, we employ a serial adoptive transfer model system to show that the functional differentiation and secondary memory potential of secondary CD4+ effector T cells are dependent on the inflammatory environment of the secondary challenge. Adoptive transfer of TCR transgenic lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) Glycoprotein-specific SMARTA memory cells into LCMV-immune hosts, followed by secondary challenge with Listeria monocytogenes recombinantly expressing a portion of the LCMV Glycoprotein (Lm-gp61), resulted in the rapid emergence of SMARTA secondary effector cells with heightened functional avidity (as measured by their ability to make IFNγ in response to ex vivo restimulation with decreasing concentrations of peptide), limited contraction after pathogen clearance and stable maintenance secondary memory T cell populations. In contrast, transfer of SMARTA memory cells into naïve hosts prior to secondary Lm-gp61 challenge, which resulted in a more extended infectious period, resulted in poor functional avidity, increased death during the contraction phase and poor maintenance of secondary memory T cell populations. The modulation of functional avidity during the secondary Th1 response was independent of differences in antigen load or persistence. Instead, the inflammatory environment strongly influenced the function of the secondary Th1 response, as inhibition of IL-12 or IFN-I activity respectively reduced or increased the functional avidity of secondary SMARTA effector cells following rechallenge in a naïve secondary hosts. Our findings demonstrate that secondary effector T cells exhibit inflammation-dependent differences in functional avidity and memory potential, and have direct bearing on the design of strategies aimed at boosting memory T cell responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Microenvironment / immunology*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Immunologic Memory* / genetics
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Vero Cells


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell