Distinct types of CD4(+) T cells protect the host against different classes of pathogens. However, it is unclear whether a given pathogen induces a single type of polarized T cell. By combining antigenic stimulation and T cell receptor deep sequencing, we found that human pathogen- and vaccine-specific T helper 1 (T(H)1), T(H)2, and T(H)17 memory cells have different frequencies but comparable diversity and comprise not only clones polarized toward a single fate, but also clones whose progeny have acquired multiple fates. Single naïve T cells primed by a pathogen in vitro could also give rise to multiple fates. Our results unravel an unexpected degree of interclonal and intraclonal functional heterogeneity of the human T cell response and suggest that polarized responses result from preferential expansion rather than priming.
Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.