Contribution of Naïve and Memory T-Cell Populations to the Human Alloimmune Response


* Corresponding author: Diana Metes,


T-cell alloimmunity plays a dominant role in allograft rejection. The precise contribution of naïve and memory T cells to this response however remains unclear. To address this question, we established an ex vivo flow-cytometric assay that simultaneously measures proliferation, precursor frequency and effector molecule (IFNγ, granzyme B/perforin) production of alloreactive T cells. By applying this assay to peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy volunteers, we demonstrate that the CD4+ and CD8+ populations mount similar proliferative responses and contain comparable frequencies of alloreactive precursors. Effector molecule expression, however, was significantly higher among CD8+ T cells. Analysis of sorted naïve and memory T cells showed that alloreactive precursors were equally present in both populations. The CD8+ effector and terminally differentiated effector memory subsets contained the highest proportion of granzyme B/perforin after allostimulation, suggesting that these cells present a significant threat to transplanted organs. Finally, we demonstrate that virus-specific lymphocytes contribute significantly to the alloresponse in certain responder–stimulator HLA combinations, underscoring the importance of T-cell cross-reactivity in alloimmunity. These results provide a quantitative assessment of the roles of naïve and memory T-cell subsets in the normal human alloimmune response and establish a platform for measuring T-cell alloreactivity pre- and posttransplantation.