Intravaginal infection with herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) generates a functional effector memory T cell population that persists in the murine genital tract
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Although the female genital tract is the main portal of entry for sexually transmitted infections in women, we still have limited understanding of the generation, maintenance and characteristics of memory T cells in the local tissue. Here, we utilized a mouse model of intravaginal HSV-2 infection and tetramers against the immunodominant HSV glycoprotein B epitope recognized by CD8+ T cells to examine the generation, maintenance and characteristics of anti-HSV memory T cells in the genital tract following acute infection. Our results show that the highest percentage of HSVgB-specific CD8+ T cells was found in the genital tract compared to the spleen or iliac lymphnode. Indeed, although the actual number of CD8+ T cells contracted following viral clearance, approximately one quarter of the CD8+ population that remained in the genital tissue was HSVgB-specific. Memory gB-tetramer+CD8 T cells in the genital tract were positive for CD127 and KLRG1 and negative for CD62L and CCR7, thus confirming that HSV-specific CD8 cells were effector memory T cells that lack the capacity for homing to lymphoid tissues. Functionally, both memory CD8+ and CD4+ HSV-specific populations in the genital tract produced IFNγ when stimulated in vitro and CD4+ cells also produced TNFα. Genital HSVgB-specific memory T cells expressed tissue-homing integrins CD103 (αE integrin) and CD49a (VLA-1 or α1 integrin). Our findings suggest that HSV-specific memory T cells are retained in the genital tract, poised to act as an early line of defense against future virus encounter.
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