Short-lived effector CD8 T cells induced by genetically attenuated malaria parasite vaccination express CD11c.
Vaccination with a single dose of genetically attenuated malaria parasites can induce sterile protection against sporozoite challenge in the rodent Plasmodium yoelii model. Protection is dependent on CD8(+) T cells, involves perforin and gamma interferon (IFN-?), and is correlated with the expansion of effector memory CD8(+) T cells in the liver. Here, we have further characterized vaccine-induced changes in the CD8(+) T cell phenotype and demonstrated significant upregulation of CD11c on CD3(+) CD8b(+) T cells in the liver, spleen, and peripheral blood. CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cells are predominantly CD11a(hi) CD44(hi) CD62L(-), indicative of antigen-experienced effector cells. Following in vitro restimulation with malaria-infected hepatocytes, CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cells expressed inflammatory cytokines and cytotoxicity markers, including IFN-?, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-?), interleukin-2 (IL-2), perforin, and CD107a. CD11c(-) CD8(+) T cells, on the other hand, expressed negligible amounts of all inflammatory cytokines and cytotoxicity markers tested, indicating that CD11c marks multifunctional effector CD8(+) T cells. Coculture of CD11c(+), but not CD11c(-), CD8(+) T cells with sporozoite-infected primary hepatocytes significantly inhibited liver-stage parasite development. Tetramer staining for the immunodominant circumsporozoite protein (CSP)-specific CD8(+) T cell epitope demonstrated that approximately two-thirds of CSP-specific cells expressed CD11c at the peak of the CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cell response, but CD11c expression was lost as the CD8(+) T cells entered the memory phase. Further analyses showed that CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cells are primarily KLRG1(+) CD127(-) terminal effectors, whereas all KLRG1(-) CD127(+) memory precursor effector cells are CD11c(-) CD8(+) T cells. Together, these results suggest that CD11c marks a subset of highly inflammatory, short-lived, antigen-specific effector cells, which may play an important role in eliminating infected hepatocytes.