Infection-induced type I interferons critically modulate the homeostasis and function of CD8+ naïve T cells

Mladen Jergović, Christopher P. Coplen, Jennifer L. Uhrlaub, David G. Besselsen, Shu Cheng, Megan J. Smithey, Janko Nikolich-Žugich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Naïve T (Tn) cells require two homeostatic signals for long-term survival: tonic T cell receptor:self-peptide–MHC contact and IL-7 stimulation. However, how microbial exposure impacts Tn homeostasis is still unclear. Here we show that infections can lead to the expansion of a subpopulation of long-lived, Ly6C+ CD8+ Tn cells with accelerated effector function. Mechanistically, mono-infection with West Nile virus transiently, and polymicrobial exposure persistently, enhances Ly6C expression selectively on CD5hiCD8+ cells, which in the case of polyinfection translates into a numerical CD8+ Tn cell increase in the lymph nodes. This conversion and expansion of Ly6C+ Tn cells depends on IFN-I, which upregulates MHC class I expression and enhances tonic TCR signaling in differentiating Tn cells. Moreover, for Ly6C+CD8+Tn cells, IFN-I-mediated signals optimize their homing to secondary sites, extend their lifespan, and enhance their effector differentiation and antibacterial function, particularly for low-affinity clones. Our results thus uncover significant regulation of Tn homeostasis and function via infection-driven IFN-I, with potential implications for immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5303
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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