Over the past decades, the dichotomy between innate and adaptive immune responses has largely dominated our understanding of immunology. Upon primary encounter with microbial pathogens, differentiation of adaptive immune cells into functional effectors usually takes several days or even longer, making them contribute to host protection only late during primary infection. However, once generated, antigen-experienced T lymphocytes can persist in the organism and constitute a pool of memory cells that mediate fast and effective protection to a recall infection with the same microbial pathogen. Herein, we challenge this classical paradigm by highlighting the “innate nature” of memory CD8+ T cells. First, within the thymus or in the periphery, naïve CD8+ T cells may acquire phenotypic and functional characteristics of memory CD8+ T cells independently of challenge with foreign antigens. Second, both the “unconventional” and the “conventional” memory cells can rapidly express protective effector functions in response to sets of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines signals, independent of cognate antigen triggering. Third, memory CD8+ T cells can act by orchestrating the recruitment, activation, and licensing of innate cells, leading to broad antimicrobial states. Thus, collectively, memory CD8+ T cells may represent important actors of innate immune defenses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology