Alpha beta and gamma delta T-cell networks and their roles in natural resistance to viral infections

Academic Program

Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology

UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Pathology

Publication Date


Document Type



Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Both alpha beta and gamma delta T-cell populations and natural killer (NK) cells include cytotoxic, interferon (IFN)-gamma-producing lymphocytes that actively respond to viral infections. We show here that all three populations can provide "natural resistance" to viruses very early in infection and describe how the T-cell populations are modulated to provide this function. gamma delta T cells were shown to play a role in controlling vaccinia virus (VV) infections, as VV grew to much higher titers in gamma delta T-cell knockout mice than in normal mice 3-4 days post-infection. Our studies of the alpha beta T-cell responses to viruses revealed an interactive network of T cells that is modulated substantially during systemic infections. There is an induction phase associated with a massive virus-specific CD8 T-cell response, an apoptosis phase during which the T cells become sensitized to activation-induced cell death (AICD), a silencing phase, during which the T-cell number and activation state is reduced, and, finally, a memory phase associated with the very stable preservation of virus-specific memory cytotoxic T-lymphocyte precursors (pCTL). Infection of mice immune to one virus with a heterologous virus leads to a selective expansion of memory CTL cross-reacting between the two viruses, but, after homeostasis is again established, there is a quantitative reduction and qualitative alteration of memory to the first virus. Our results suggest that memory alpha beta T cells cross-reactive between heterologous viruses mediate both immunopathology and protective immunity at early stages of the second virus infection. Thus, memory alpha beta T cells can, like gamma delta T cells and NK cells, provide natural immunity to viral infections.

DOI of Published Version



Immunol Rev. 1997 Oct;159:79-93.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Immunological reviews

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID