The effect of TCR signals on the differentiation of memory T cells is poorly defined. Conventional wisdom suggests that high-avidity interactions are best for the selection of vaccine Ag candidates or T cell specificities for adoptive T cell therapy to stimulate robust responses. However, in conditions of Ag persistence, high-avidity clones might exhaust and fail to form long-lived protective memory. We have manipulated the functional avidity of CD4 T cells by reducing expression of Lck, a key kinase involved in TCR triggering. Using a mouse model, we followed tetramer-positive T cells responding to a tumor Ag expressed by an adenocarcinoma. We show that reducing the functional avidity increased effector-effector memory responses and improved the generation of self-renewing, recirculating, tumor Ag-specific memory phenotype CD4 T cells. Moreover, such cells together with wild type CD8 T cells were better able to control tumor growth. Mechanistically, reducing Lck prolonged IL-2 production and cell turnover in the central memory population while reducing expression of exhaustion markers in the face of chronic Ag. Our data indicate that, in situations of persistent Ag challenge, generating T cells with reduced functional avidity may elicit more effective immune responses.
T-cell development in the thymus and activation of mature T cells in secondary lymphoid organs requires the ability of cells to respond appropriately to environmental signals at multiple stages of their development. The process of thymocyte selection insures a functional T-cell repertoire, while activation of naive peripheral T cells induces proliferation, gain of effector function, and, ultimately, long-lived T-cell memory. The T-cell immune response is initiated upon engagement of the T-cell receptor (TCR) and coreceptor, CD4 or CD8, by cognate antigen/major histocompatibility complexes presented by antigen-presenting cells. TCR/coreceptor engagement induces the activation of biochemical signaling pathways that, in combination with signals from costimulator molecules and cytokine receptors, direct the outcome of the response. Activation of the src-family kinases p56(lck) (Lck) and p59(fyn) (Fyn) is central to the initiation of TCR signaling pathways. This review focuses on our current understanding of the mechanisms by which these two proteins orchestrate T-cell function.
Certain parasites have evolved to evade the immune response and establish chronic infections that may persist for many years. T cell responses in these conditions become muted despite ongoing infection. Upregulation of surface receptors with inhibitory properties provides an immune cell-intrinsic mechanism that, under conditions of chronic infection, regulates immune responses and limits cellular activation and associated pathology. The negative regulator, CD200 receptor, and its ligand, CD200, have been shown to regulate macrophage activation and reduce pathology following infection. We show that CD4 T cells also increase expression of inhibitory CD200 receptors (CD200R) in response to chronic infection. CD200R was upregulated on murine effector T cells in response to infection with bacterial, Salmonella enterica, or helminth, Schistosoma mansoni, pathogens that respectively drive predominant Th1- or Th2-responses. In vitro chronic and prolonged stimuli were required for the sustained upregulation of CD200R, and its expression coincided with loss of multifunctional potential in T effector cells during infection. Importantly, we show an association between IL-4 production and CD200R expression on T effector cells from humans infected with Schistosoma haematobium that correlated effectively with egg burden and, thus infection intensity. Our results indicate a role of CD200R:CD200 in T cell responses to helminths which has diagnostic and prognostic relevance as a marker of infection for chronic schistosomiasis in mouse and man.
Harnessing T-cell responses to constrain tumor growth is a realistic treatment aspiration in tumor medicine, as many tumors express specific tumor associated antigens that are recognized by the adaptive immune system. CD8 T cells have direct cytolytic activity against tumor cells, and CD4 T cells mount a variety of responses that have important influences on tumor growth. We discuss how individual T-cell subsets contribute to antitumor responses and the goals and problems associated with generating and/or maintaining effective multifunctional T-cell responses to provide long-term protection against tumors.
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