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Long-term T cell memory requires the surface expression of self-peptide/major histocompatibility complex molecules

The National Academy of Sciences
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  • Biological Sciences
  • Biology


How memory T cells are maintained in vivo is poorly understood. To address this problem, a male-specific peptide (H-Y) was identified and used to activate female anti-H-Y T cells in vitro. Anti-H-Y T cells survived in vivo for at least 70 days in the absence of antigen. This persistence was not because of the intrinsic ability of memory T cells to survive in vivo. Instead, the survival and function of adoptively transferred memory cells was found to require transporter of antigen protein 1-dependent expression of self-peptide/major histocompatibility complex class I molecules in recipient animals. Therefore, it appears that the level of T cell receptor engagement provided by transporter of antigen protein 1-dependent, self-peptide/major histocompatibility complexes is sufficient to maintain the long-term survival and functional phenotype of memory cells in the absence of persistent antigen. These data suggest that positive selection plays a role not only in T cell development but also in the maintenance of T cell memory.

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