Tissue-resident memory T cells in tissue homeostasis, persistent infection, and cancer surveillance

Immunol Rev. 2018 May;283(1):54-76. doi: 10.1111/imr.12650.


A large proportion of memory T cells disseminated throughout the body are non-recirculating cells whose maintenance and function is regulated by tissue-specific environmental cues. These sessile cells are referred to as tissue-resident memory T (TRM ) cells and similar populations of non-recirculating cells also exist among unconventional T cells and innate lymphocyte cells. The pool of TRM cells is highly diverse with respect to anatomical positioning, phenotype, molecular regulation and effector function. Nevertheless, certain transcriptional programs are shared and appear as important unifying features for the overall population of TRM cells and tissue-resident lymphocytes. It is now widely appreciated that TRM cells are a critical component of our immune defense by acting as peripheral sentinels capable of rapidly mobilizing protective tissue immunity upon pathogen recognition. This function is of particular importance in anatomical sites that are not effectively surveilled by blood-borne memory T cells in absence of inflammation, such as neuronal tissues or epithelial compartments in skin and mucosae. Focusing on the well-characterized subtype of CD8+ CD69+ CD103+ TRM cells, we will review current concepts on the generation, persistence and function of TRM cells and will summarize commonly used tools to study these cells. Furthermore, we will discuss accumulating data that emphasize localized TRM responses as an important determinant of tissue homeostasis and immune defense in the context of microbiota-immune interactions, persistent infections and cancer surveillance.

Keywords: T cell migration; cancer surveillance; immune homeostasis; persisting infection; tissue homeostasis; tissue-resident memory T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Homeostasis*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory*
  • Immunologic Surveillance* / genetics
  • Infections / genetics
  • Infections / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Mice
  • Microbiota / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • Organ Specificity / immunology
  • Phenotype
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Transcriptome


  • Biomarkers