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    Autophagy is a critical regulator of memory CD8(+) T cell formation.

    Elife 2014 Nov 11;3. Epub 2014 Nov 11.
    MRC Human Immunology Unit, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom.
    During infection, CD8(+) T cells initially expand then contract, leaving a small memory pool providing long lasting immunity. While it has been described that CD8(+) T cell memory formation becomes defective in old age, the cellular mechanism is largely unknown. Autophagy is a major cellular lysosomal degradation pathway of bulk material, and levels are known to fall with age. In this study, we describe a novel role for autophagy in CD8(+) T cell memory formation. Mice lacking the autophagy gene Atg7 in T cells failed to establish CD8(+) T cell memory to influenza and MCMV infection. Interestingly, autophagy levels were diminished in CD8(+) T cells from aged mice. We could rejuvenate CD8(+) T cell responses in elderly mice in an autophagy dependent manner using the compound spermidine. This study reveals a cell intrinsic explanation for poor CD8(+) T cell memory in the elderly and potentially offers novel immune modulators to improve aged immunity.
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