PloS one

Hoxb4 overexpression in CD4 memory phenotype T cells increases the central memory population upon homeostatic proliferation.

PMID 24324706


Memory T cell populations allow a rapid immune response to pathogens that have been previously encountered and thus form the basis of success in vaccinations. However, the molecular pathways underlying the development and maintenance of these cells are only starting to be unveiled. Memory T cells have the capacity to self renew as do hematopoietic stem cells, and overlapping gene expression profiles suggested that these cells might use the same self-renewal pathways. The transcription factor Hoxb4 has been shown to promote self-renewal divisions of hematopoietic stem cells resulting in an expansion of these cells. In this study we investigated whether overexpression of Hoxb4 could provide an advantage to CD4 memory phenotype T cells in engrafting the niche of T cell deficient mice following adoptive transfer. Competitive transplantation experiments demonstrated that CD4 memory phenotype T cells derived from mice transgenic for Hoxb4 contributed overall less to the repopulation of the lymphoid organs than wild type CD4 memory phenotype T cells after two months. These proportions were relatively maintained following serial transplantation in secondary and tertiary mice. Interestingly, a significantly higher percentage of the Hoxb4 CD4 memory phenotype T cell population expressed the CD62L and Ly6C surface markers, characteristic for central memory T cells, after homeostatic proliferation. Thus Hoxb4 favours the maintenance and increase of the CD4 central memory phenotype T cell population. These cells are more stem cell like and might eventually lead to an advantage of Hoxb4 T cells after subjecting the cells to additional rounds of proliferation.