Human T Cell Development, Localization, and Function throughout Life

Immunity. 2018 Feb 20;48(2):202-213. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2018.01.007.


Throughout life, T cells coordinate multiple aspects of adaptive immunity, including responses to pathogens, allergens, and tumors. In mouse models, the role of T cells is studied in the context of a specific type of pathogen, antigen, or disease condition over a limited time frame, whereas in humans, T cells control multiple insults simultaneously throughout the body and maintain immune homeostasis over decades. In this review, we discuss how human T cells develop and provide essential immune protection at different life stages and highlight tissue localization and subset delineation as key determinants of the T cell functional role in immune responses. We also discuss how anatomic compartments undergo distinct age-associated changes in T cell subset composition and function over a lifetime. It is important to consider age and tissue influences on human T cells when developing targeted strategies to modulate T cell-mediated immunity in vaccines and immunotherapies.

Keywords: T cell subset; development; human immunology; memory; memory T cells; mucosal immunity; thymus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Lymphopoiesis
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology
  • Tissue Distribution