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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)