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Memory T cells

    Memory T cells are a specific type of infection-fighting T cell (also known as a T lymphocyte) that can recognize foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses, that were encountered during a prior infection or vaccination. At a second encounter with the invader, memory T cells can reproduce to mount a faster and stronger immune response than the first time the immune system responded to the invader. This behaviour is utilized in T lymphocyte proliferation assays, which can reveal exposure to specific antigens.



Within the human cytotoxic T cell population, three distinct sub-populations have now been described:

  • central memory (TCM). The TCM cells are thought to represent memory stem cells. TCM display a capacity for self-renewal due to high levels of phosphorylation of an important transcription factor known as STAT5. [1]
  • two highly related effector memory sub-types, which strongly express genes for molecules essential to the cytotoxic function of CD8 T cells:
    • effector memory (TEM)
    • effector memory RA (TEMRA)

Memory T cells can be recognized by the differential expression of certain molecules.

  • Effector memory TEM cells, however, do not express L-selectin or CCR7 but produce effector cytokines like IFNγ and IL-4.

Antigen-specific memory T cells against viruses or other microbial molecules can be found in both TCM and TEM subsets. Although most information is currently based on observations in the Cytotoxic T cells (CD8-positive) subset, similar populations appear to exist for Helper T cells (CD4-positive).

See also


  1. ^ Willinger T, Freeman T, Hasegawa H, McMichael A, Callan M (2005). "Molecular signatures distinguish human central memory from effector memory CD8 T cell subsets". J Immunol 175 (9): 5895-903. PMID 16237082.

Further reading

  • Janeway CA, Jr. et al (2005). Immunobiology., 6th ed., Garland Science. ISBN 978-0-443-07310-6. 
  • Cellular and Molecular Immunology (5th Ed.) Abbas AK, and Lichtman, Editor: Saunders, Philadelphia, 2003.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Memory_T_cells". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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