Interferon-γ couples CD8+ T cell avidity and differentiation during infection.
Uhl LFK., Cai H., Oram SL., Mahale JN., MacLean AJ., Mazet JM., Piccirilli T., He AJ., Lau D., Elliott T., Gerard A.
Effective responses to intracellular pathogens are characterized by T cell clones with a broad affinity range for their cognate peptide and diverse functional phenotypes. How T cell clones are selected throughout the response to retain a breadth of avidities remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that direct sensing of the cytokine IFN-γ by CD8+ T cells coordinates avidity and differentiation during infection. IFN-γ promotes the expansion of low-avidity T cells, allowing them to overcome the selective advantage of high-avidity T cells, whilst reinforcing high-avidity T cell entry into the memory pool, thus reducing the average avidity of the primary response and increasing that of the memory response. IFN-γ in this context is mainly provided by virtual memory T cells, an antigen-inexperienced subset with memory features. Overall, we propose that IFN-γ and virtual memory T cells fulfil a critical immunoregulatory role by enabling the coordination of T cell avidity and fate.