Quiescence of Memory CD8+ T Cells Is Mediated by Regulatory T Cells through Inhibitory Receptor CTLA-4

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Immune memory cells are poised to rapidly expand and elaborate effector functions upon reinfection yet exist in a functionally quiescent state. The paradigm is that memory T cells remain inactive due to lack of T cell receptor (TCR) stimuli. Here, we report that regulatory T (Treg) cells orchestrate memory T cell quiescence by suppressing effector and proliferation programs through inhibitory receptor, cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-associated protein-4 (CTLA-4). Loss of Treg cells resulted in activation of genome-wide transcriptional programs characteristic of effector T cells and drove transitioning as well as established memory CD8+ T cells toward terminally differentiated KLRG-1hiIL-7RαloGzmBhi phenotype, with compromised metabolic fitness, longevity, polyfunctionality, and protective efficacy. CTLA-4 functionally replaced Treg cells in trans to rescue memory T cell defects and restore homeostasis. These studies present the CTLA-4-CD28-CD80/CD86 axis as a potential target to accelerate vaccine-induced immunity and improve T cell memory quality in current cancer immunotherapies proposing transient Treg cell ablation.

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