Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

IL-2 induction of Blimp-1 is a key in vivo signal for CD8+ short-lived effector T cell differentiation.

PMID 25015830


During infection or vaccination, only a small proportion of CD8(+) T cells differentiate into memory cells. The mechanisms underlying the differentiation of CD8(+) T cells into short-lived effector cells (SLECs) or memory precursor effector cells are poorly defined. It was recently shown in infectious models that the transcriptional repressor B lymphocyte-induced maturation protein 1 (Blimp-1) enhances the formation of SLECs. The factors controlling Blimp-1 expression leading to the in vivo formation of SLECs are still not known. However, it has been shown that cytokines such as IL-2 induce Blimp-1 expression in vitro. In this study, we took advantage of the low-inflammation model of dendritic cell immunization to study the role of the IL-2/Blimp-1 axis in SLEC differentiation as well as the importance of Blimp-1 expression in memory precursor effector cells for proper CD8(+) memory generation. Our results show that Blimp-1 deficiency affects effector differentiation and function in the absence of inflammation. Unexpectedly, memory generation was not affected in Blimp-1-deficient OT-I cells responding to vaccination. In addition, modulation of the bioavailability of IL-2 by injection either of a blocking Ab or of the cytokine, demonstrates a link between IL-2, Blimp-1 induction, and SLEC formation in wild-type cells. Conversely, injection of IL-2 had less effect on Blimp-1-deficient CD8(+) T cells, indicating that the effect of IL-2 on in vivo SLEC differentiation is mediated by Blimp-1. In conclusion, IL-2 induction of Blimp-1 expression is a key regulator of SLEC differentiation in vivo.