T cell activation niches-Optimizing T cell effector function in inflamed and infected tissues

Immunol Rev. 2022 Mar;306(1):164-180. doi: 10.1111/imr.13047. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


Successful immunity to infection, malignancy, and tissue damage requires the coordinated recruitment of numerous immune cell subsets to target tissues. Once within the target tissue, effector T cells rely on local chemotactic cues and structural cues from the tissue matrix to navigate the tissue, interact with antigen-presenting cells, and release effector cytokines. This highly dynamic process has been "caught on camera" in situ by intravital multiphoton imaging. Initial studies revealed a surprising randomness to the pattern of T cell migration through inflamed tissues, behavior thought to facilitate chance encounters with rare antigen-bearing cells. Subsequent tissue-wide visualization has uncovered a high degree of spatial preference when it comes to T cell activation. Here, we discuss the basic tenants of a successful effector T cell activation niche, taking cues from the dynamics of Tfh positioning in the lymph node germinal center. In peripheral tissues, steady-state microanatomical organization may direct the location of "pop-up" de novo activation niches, often observed as perivascular clusters, that support early effector T cell activation. These perivascular activation niches appear to be regulated by site-specific chemokines that coordinate the recruitment of dendritic cells and other innate cells for local T cell activation, survival, and optimized effector function.

Keywords: T cells; cell trafficking; chemokines; cytokines; infectious disease; inflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Presenting Cells
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • T-Lymphocytes*


  • Chemokines
  • Cytokines