Killing of Targets by CD8 T Cells in the Mouse Spleen Follows the Law of Mass Action

Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.23). 01/2011; 6(1):e15959. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015959
Source: PubMed


It has been difficult to correlate the quality of CD8 T cell responses with protection against viral infections. To investigate the relationship between efficacy and magnitude of T cell responses, we quantify the rate at which individual CD8 effector and memory T cells kill target cells in the mouse spleen. Using mathematical modeling, we analyze recent data on the loss of target cells pulsed with three different peptides from the mouse lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) in mouse spleens with varying numbers of epitope-specific CD8 T cells. We find that the killing of targets follows the law of mass-action, i.e., the death rate of individual target cells remains proportional to the frequency (or the total number) of specific CD8 T cells in the spleen despite the fact that effector cell densities and effector to target ratios vary about a 1000-fold. The killing rate of LCMV-specific CD8 T cells is largely independent of T cell specificity and differentiation stage. Our results thus allow one to calculate the critical T cell concentration at which growth of a virus with a given replication rate can be prevented from the start of infection by memory CD8 T cell response.

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