While CD8⁺ memory T cells can promote long-lived protection from secondary exposure to intracellular pathogens, less is known regarding the direct protective mechanisms of CD4⁺ T cells. We utilized a prime/boost model in which mice are initially exposed to an acutely infecting strain of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), followed by a heterologous rechallenge with Listeria monocytogenes recombinantly expressing the MHC Class II-restricted LCMV epitope, GP61-80 (Lm-gp61). We found that heterologous Lm-gp61 rechallenge resulted in robust activation of CD4⁺ memory T cells and that they were required for rapid bacterial clearance. We further assessed the relative roles of TNF and IFNγ in the direct anti-bacterial function of CD4⁺ memory T cells. We found that disruption of TNF resulted in a complete loss of protection mediated by CD4⁺ memory T cells, whereas disruption of IFNγ signaling to macrophages results in only a partial loss of protection. The protective effect mediated by CD4⁺ T cells corresponded to the rapid accumulation of pro-inflammatory macrophages in the spleen and an altered inflammatory environment in vivo. Overall, we conclude that protection mediated by CD4⁺ memory T cells from heterologous Listeria challenge is most directly dependent on TNF, whereas IFNγ only plays a minor role.
Keywords: CD4+ T cells; Listeria monocytogenes; immunological memory; secondary challenge.