CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes play a major role in defense against intracellular pathogens, and their functions are specified by antigen recognition and innate cytokines. IL-12 and IFN-α/β are potent "signal 3" cytokines that are involved in both effector and memory cell development. Although the majority of effector cells are eliminated as inflammation resolves, some survive within the pool of memory cells and retain immediate effector function. In this study, we demonstrate that IL-12 instructs a unique program of effector cell differentiation that is distinct from IFN-α/β. Moreover, effector memory (TEM) cells within peripheral blood display many common attributes of cells differentiated in vitro in response to IL-12, including proinflammatory cytokine secretion and lytic activity. A pattern of IL-12-induced genes was identified that demarcate T EM from central memory cells, and the ontologies of these genes correlated precisely with their effector functions. Further, we uncovered a unique program of gene expression that was acutely regulated by IL-12 and reflected in stable gene expression patterns within TEM, but not T central memory cells in vivo. Thus, this study directly links a selective set of IL-12-induced genes to the programming of effector functions within the stable population of human CD8+ TEM cells in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology