Naive T cells become programmed for clonal expansion and contraction during the early hours of antigenic signaling. Recent studies support an 'autopilot' model, wherein the commitment to proliferate and the magnitude of the proliferative response are simultaneously determined during a single, brief period of antigen exposure. Here, we have examined whether the proliferation of naive CD4+ T cells must occur on 'autopilot', or whether extended periods of antigenic signaling can impact primary proliferative responses to antigen-presenting macrophages (macrophage APC). We found that a single exposure to antigen (18 h) simultaneously committed T cells to (1) up-regulate surface TCR above the level expressed on naive T cells, (2) undergo minimal cell division, and (3) acquire susceptibility to TCR-dependent activation-induced cell death. However, continued antigenic signaling between 18 and 72 h was required to amplify the number of daughter cells derived from the already committed T cells. Thus, a discrete commitment time was followed by a 'tuning' period, where extended antigenic signaling determined the volume of the proliferative response. We conclude that T cell commitment to full clonal expansion versus TCR-dependent death susceptibility represent two separate programming events whose timing can be segregated by macrophage APC.
- Activation-induced cell death
- T cell commitment
- T cell proliferation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy