Autophagy is essential for effector CD8 + T cell survival and memory formation

Xiaojin Xu, Koichi Araki, Shuzhao Li, Jin Hwan Han, Lilin Ye, Wendy G. Tan, Bogumila T. Konieczny, Monique W. Bruinsma, Jennifer Martinez, Erika L. Pearce, Douglas R. Green, Dean P. Jones, Herbert W. Virgin, Rafi Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

345 Scopus citations


The importance of autophagy in the generation of memory CD8 + T cells in vivo is not well defined. We report here that autophagy was dynamically regulated in virus-specific CD8 + T cells during acute infection of mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. In contrast to the current paradigm, autophagy decreased in activated proliferating effector CD8 + T cells and was then upregulated when the cells stopped dividing just before the contraction phase. Consistent with those findings, deletion of the gene encoding either of the autophagy-related molecules Atg5 or Atg7 had little to no effect on the proliferation and function of effector cells, but these autophagy-deficient effector cells had survival defects that resulted in compromised formation of memory T cells. Our studies define when autophagy is needed during effector and memory differentiation and warrant reexamination of the relationship between T cell activation and autophagy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1152-1161
Number of pages10
JournalNature immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 18 2014


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