• CD40 ligand;
  • DC;
  • IL-15;
  • Stress


Evidence is presented that thermal or oxidizing stress-activated DC interact with CD4+ T cells to induce and maintain a TCR-independent homeostatic memory circuit. Stress-activated DC expressed endogenous intra-cellular and cell surface HSP70. The NF-κB signalling pathway was activated and led to the expression of membrane-associated IL-15 molecules. These interacted with the IL-15 receptor complex on CD4+ T cells, thus activating the Jak3 and STAT5 phosphorylation signalling pathway to induce CD40 ligand expression, T-cell proliferation and IFN-γ production. CD40 ligand on CD4+ T cells in turn re-activated CD40 molecules on DC, inducing DC maturation and IL-15 expression thereby maintaining the feedback circuit. The proliferating CD4+ T cells were characterized as CD45RA CD62L+ central memory cells, which underwent homeostatic proliferation. The circuit is independent of antigen and MHC-class-II-TCR interaction as demonstrated by resistance to TCR inhibition by ZAP70 inhibitor or MHC-class II antibodies. These findings suggest that stress can activate a DC-CD4+ T-cell interacting circuit, which may be responsible for maintaining a homeostatic antigen-independent memory.