Memory T cells in organ transplantation: Progress and challenges

Jaclyn R. Espinosa, Kannan P. Samy, Allan D. Kirk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Antigen-experienced T cells, also known as memory T cells, are functionally and phenotypically distinct from naive T cells. Their enhanced expression of adhesion molecules and reduced requirement for co-stimulation enables them to mount potent and rapid recall responses to subsequent antigen encounters. Memory T cells generated in response to prior antigen exposures can cross-react with other nonidentical, but similar, antigens. This heterologous cross-reactivity not only enhances protective immune responses, but also engenders de novo alloimmunity. This latter characteristic is increasingly recognized as a potential barrier to allograft acceptance that is worthy of immunotherapeutic intervention, and several approaches have been investigated. Calcineurin inhibition effectively controls memory T-cell responses to allografts, but this benefit comes at the expense of increased infectious morbidity. Lymphocyte depletion eliminates allospecific T cells but spares memory T cells to some extent, such that patients do not completely lose protective immunity. Co-stimulation blockade is associated with reduced adverse-effect profiles and improved graft function relative to calcineurin inhibition, but lacks efficacy in controlling memory T-cell responses. Targeting the adhesion molecules that are upregulated on memory T cells might offer additional means to control co-stimulation-blockade-resistant memory T-cell responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-347
Number of pages9
JournalNature Reviews Nephrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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