Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Antigen signal strength during priming determines effector CD4 T cell function and antigen sensitivity during influenza virus challenge.

PMID 25086170


TCR signal strength during priming is a key determinant of CD4 T cell activation, but its impact on effector CD4 T functions in vivo remains unclear. In this study, we compare the functionality of CD4 T cell responses induced by peptides displaying varying binding half-lives with MHC class II before and after influenza virus infection. Although significant quantitative and qualitative differences in CD4 T cell responses were observed before infection between mice vaccinated with low- or high-stability peptides, both mice mounted robust early Th1 effector cytokine responses upon influenza challenge. However, only effector CD4 T cells induced by low-stability peptides proliferated and produced IL-17A after influenza challenge. In contrast, effector T cells elicited by higher-stability peptides displayed a terminally differentiated phenotype and divided poorly. This defective proliferation was T cell intrinsic but could not be attributed to a reduced expression of lymph node homing receptors. Instead, we found that CD4 T cells stimulated with higher-stability peptides exhibited decreased responsiveness to low levels of Ag presentation. Our study reveals the critical role of TCR signal strength during priming for the function and Ag sensitivity of effector CD4 T cells during viral challenge.