The duration of antigenic stimulation determines the fate of naive and effector T cells

Immunity. 1998 Jan;8(1):89-95. doi: 10.1016/s1074-7613(00)80461-6.


It is known that T cells engage antigen-presenting cells (APCs) in a stable interaction that results in sustained TCR signaling. We show here that the duration of this process is critical in determining whether T cells will be activated or deleted. Whereas naive T cells require approximately 20 hr of sustained signaling to be committed to proliferation, effector T cells become committed after only 1 hr but die following activation if antigenic stimulation is prolonged. Costimulation by anti-CD28 facilitates T cell activation by decreasing the time of commitment and by protecting T cells from death. These findings explain in quantitative terms the essential requirement for professional APCs in T cell priming and show that the duration of antigenic stimulation is the major factor determining the fate of naive and effector T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology*
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / ultrastructure
  • CD28 Antigens / immunology*
  • CD28 Antigens / pharmacology
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / ultrastructure


  • CD28 Antigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2