Generation, persistence and plasticity of CD4 T-cell memories


Dr D. L. Farber, Department of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, MSTF Building, Room 400, 685 W. Baltimore St., Baltimore, MD 21201, USA. Email:
Senior author: Donna L. Farber


The development of immune memory mediated by T lymphocytes is central to durable, long-lasting protective immunity. A key issue in the field is how to direct the generation and persistence of memory T cells to elicit the appropriate secondary response to provide protection to a specific pathogen. Two prevailing views have emerged; that cellular and molecular regulators control the lineage fate and functional capacities of memory T cells early after priming, or alternatively, that populations of memory T cells are inherently plastic and subject to alterations in function and/or survival at many stages during their long-term maintenance. Here, we will review current findings in CD4 T-cell memory that suggest inherent plasticity in populations of memory CD4 T cells at all stages of their development – originating with their generation from multiple types of primed CD4 T cells, during their persistence and homeostatic turnover in response to T-cell receptor signals, and also following secondary challenge. These multiple aspects of memory CD4 T-cell flexibility contrast the more defined lineages and functions ascribed to memory CD8 T cells, suggesting a dynamic nature to memory CD4 T-cell populations and responses. The flexible attributes of CD4 T-cell memory suggest opportunities and mechanisms for therapeutic manipulation at all phases of immune memory development, maintenance and recall.