The onset of autoimmunity in experimental rodent models and patients frequently correlates with a lymphopenic state. In this condition, the immune system has evolved compensatory homeostatic mechanisms that induce quiescent naive T cells to proliferate and differentiate into memory-like lymphocytes even in the apparent absence of antigenic stimulation. Because memory T cells have less stringent requirements for activation than naive cells, we hypothesized that autoreactive T cells that arrive to secondary lymphoid organs in a lymphopenic environment could differentiate and bypass the mechanisms of peripheral tolerance such as those mediated by self-antigen cross-presentation. Here, we show that lymphopenia-driven proliferation and differentiation of potentially autoreactive CD8(+) T cells into memory-like cells is not sufficient to induce self-reactivity against a pancreatic antigen. Induction of an organ-specific autoimmunity required antigen-specific CD4(+) T cell help. Notably, we found that this function could be accomplished by memory-like CD4(+) T cells generated in vivo through lymphopenia-induced proliferation. These helper cells promoted the further differentiation of memory-like CD8(+) T cells into effectors in response to antigen cross-presentation, resulting in their migration to the tissue of antigen expression where autoimmunity ensued. Thus, the cooperation of self-reactive memory-like CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells under lymphopenic conditions overcomes cross-tolerance resulting in autoimmunity.
Memory-like CD8+ and CD4+ T cells cooperate to break peripheral tolerance under lymphopenic conditions
Le Saout, C.; Mennechet, S.; Taylor, N.; Hernandez, J.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
2008-12-09 / vol 105 / pages 19414-9
0807743105 [pii] 10.1073/pnas.0807743105