Immunologic memory involving CD8+ T cells is a hallmark of an adaptive antigen (Ag)-specific immune response and constitutes a critical component of protective immunity. Designing approaches that enhance long-term T cell memory would, for the most part, fortify vaccines and enhance host protection against infectious diseases and, perhaps, cancer immunotherapy. A better understanding of the cellular programs involved in the Ag-specific T-cell response has led to new approaches that target the magnitude and quality of the memory T-cell response. We have shown that T cells from TCR (T-cell receptor) transgenic mice for the nucleoprotein of influenza virus NP68 exhibit the distinct phases - priming, expansion, contraction, and memory - of an Ag-specific T-cell response when exposed in vitro to the cognate peptide. Saracatinib, a specific inhibitor of Src family kinases, administered at low doses during the expansion or contraction phases, increased CD62Lhigh/CD44high central memory CD8+ T cells and IFN-gamma production but suppressed immunity when added during the priming phase. These effects by saracatinib were not accompanied by the expected decline of Src family kinases but were accompanied by Akt-mammalian target of rapamycin suppression and/or mediated via another pathway. Increased central memory cells by saracatinib were recapitulated in mice using a poxvirus-based influenza vaccine, thus underscoring the importance of dose and timing of the inhibitor in the context of memory T-cell differentiation. Finally, vaccine plus saracatinib treatment showed better protection against tumor challenge. The immune-potentiating effects on CD8+ T cells by a low dose of saracatinib might afford better protection from pathogens or cancer when combined with vaccine. Inhibition of TGF-beta1 signaling promotes central memory T-cell differentiation: This study affirmed that isolated CD8+ T cells express mRNA and produce TGF-beta following cognate peptide recognition. Blockage of endogenous TGF-beta with either a TGF-beta-blocking Ab or a small molecule inhibitor of TGF-betaRI enhances the generation of CD62Lhigh/CD44high central memory CD8+ T cells accompanied with a robust recall response. Interestingly, the augmentation within the central memory T-cell pool occurs in lieu of cellular proliferation or activation, but with the expected increase in the ratio of the Eomesoderm/T-bet transcriptional factors. Yet, the signal transduction pathway(s) seems to be noncanonical, independent of SMAD or mammalian target of rapamycin signaling. Enhancement of central memory generation by TGF-beta blockade is also confirmed in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The findings underscore the role(s) that autocrine TGF-beta plays in T-cell homeostasis and, in particular, the balance of effector/memory and central/memory T cells. These results may provide a rationale to targeting TGF-beta signaling to enhance Ag-specific CD8+ T-cell memory against a lethal infection or cancer.
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