Early effector cells survive the contraction phase in malaria infection and generate both central and effector memory T cells

Michael M Opata, Victor H Carpio, Samad A Ibitokou, Brian E Dillon, Joshua M Obiero, Robin Stephens
Journal of Immunology: Official Journal of the American Association of Immunologists 2015 June 1, 194 (11): 5346-54
CD4 T cells orchestrate immunity against blood-stage malaria. However, a major challenge in designing vaccines to the disease is poor understanding of the requirements for the generation of protective memory T cells (Tmem) from responding effector T cells (Teff) in chronic parasite infection. In this study, we use a transgenic mouse model with T cells specific for the merozoite surface protein (MSP)-1 of Plasmodium chabaudi to show that activated T cells generate three distinct Teff subsets with progressive activation phenotypes. The earliest observed Teff subsets (CD127(-)CD62L(hi)CD27(+)) are less divided than CD62L(lo) Teff and express memory genes. Intermediate (CD62L(lo)CD27(+)) effector subsets include the most multicytokine-producing T cells, whereas fully activated (CD62L(lo)CD27(-)) late effector cells have a terminal Teff phenotype (PD-1(+), Fas(hi), AnnexinV(+)). We show that although IL-2 promotes expansion, it actually slows terminal effector differentiation. Using adoptive transfer, we show that only early Teff survive the contraction phase and generate the terminal late Teff subsets, whereas in uninfected recipients, they become both central and effector Tmem. Furthermore, we show that progression toward full Teff activation is promoted by increased duration of infection, which in the long-term promotes Tem differentiation. Therefore, we have defined markers of progressive activation of CD4 Teff at the peak of malaria infection, including a subset that survives the contraction phase to make Tmem, and show that Ag and cytokine levels during CD4 T cell expansion influence the proportion of activated cells that can survive contraction and generate memory in malaria infection.

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