Virology, Nebraska Center for


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Workman AM, Jacobs AK, Vogel AJ, Condon S, Brown DM (2014) Inflammation Enhances IL-2 Driven Differentiation of Cytolytic CD4 T Cells. PLoS ONE 9(2): e89010. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089010


Copyright 2014 Workman et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Cytolytic CD4 T cells (CD4 CTL) have been identified in vivo in response to viral infections; however, the factors necessary for driving the cytolytic phenotype have not been fully elucidated. Our previously published work suggests IL-2 may be the master regulator of perforin-mediated cytotoxicity in CD4 effectors. To further dissect the role of IL-2 in CD4 CTL generation, T cell receptor transgenic mice deficient in the ability to produce IL-2 or the high affinity IL-2 receptor (IL-2Rα, CD25) were used. Increasing concentrations of IL-2 were necessary to drive perforin (Prf) expression and maximal cytotoxicity. Granzyme B (GrB) expression and killing correlated with STAT5 activation and CD25 expression in vitro, suggesting that signaling through the high affinity IL-2R is critical for full cytotoxicity. IL-2 signaling was also necessary in vivo for inducing the Th1 phenotype and IFN-γ expression in CD4 T cells during influenza A (IAV) infection. In addition, GrB expression, as measured by mean fluorescent intensity, was decreased in CD25 deficient cells; however, the frequency of CD4 cells expressing GrB was unchanged. Similarly, analysis of cytolytic markers such as CD107a/b and Eomesodermin indicate high IL-2Rα expression is not necessary to drive the CD4 CTL phenotype during IAV infection. Thus, inflammatory signals induced by viral infection may overcome the need for strong IL-2 signals in driving cytotoxicity in CD4 cells.