Institute for Medical Immunology, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Rue Adrienne Bolland 8, 6041 Charleroi, Belgium.
The function of Ag-specific central (T(CM)) and effector (T(EM)) memory CD4+ T lymphocytes remains poorly characterized in vivo in humans. Using CD154 as a marker of Ag-specific CD4+T cells, we studied the differentiation of memory subsets following anti-hepatitis B immunization. Hepatitis B surface Ag (HBs)-specific memory CD4+T cells were heterogeneous and included T(CM) (CCR7+CD27+) and T(EM) (CCR7(-)CD27(+/-)). HBs-specific T(CM) and T(EM) shared the capacity to produce multiple cytokines, including IL-2 and IFN-gamma. Several years postimmunization, approximately 10% of HBs-specific memory CD4+ T cells were in cycle (Ki67+) and the proliferating cells were CCR7+. These results suggest that the model of functional specialization of T(CM) and T(EM) cannot be applied to protein vaccine Ags and support the concept that T(CM) are capable of self-renewal and contribute to maintain the pool of memory cells.