Exhausted CD8 T cells downregulate the IL-18 receptor and become unresponsive to inflammatory cytokines and bacterial co-infections.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats

Attention Stats


During many chronic infections virus-specific CD8 T cells succumb to exhaustion as they lose their ability to respond to antigenic activation. Combinations of IL-12, IL-18, and IL-21 have been shown to induce the antigen-independent production of interferon (IFN)-γ by effector and memory CD8 T cells. In this study we investigated whether exhausted CD8 T cells are sensitive to activation by these cytokines. We show that effector and memory, but not exhausted, CD8 T cells produce IFN-γ and upregulate CD25 following exposure to certain combinations of IL-12, IL-18, and IL-21. The unresponsiveness of exhausted CD8 T cells is associated with downregulation of the IL-18-receptor-α (IL-18Rα). Although IL-18Rα expression is connected with the ability of memory CD8 T cells to self-renew and efflux rhodamine 123, the IL-18Rα(lo) exhausted cells remained capable of secreting this dye. To further evaluate the consequences of IL-18Rα downregulation, we tracked the fate of IL-18Rα-deficient CD8 T cells in chronically infected mixed bone marrow chimeras and discovered that IL-18Rα affects the initial but not later phases of the response. The antigen-independent responsiveness of exhausted CD8 T cells was also investigated following co-infection with Listeria monocytogenes, which induces the expression of IL-12 and IL-18. Although IL-18Rα(hi) memory cells upregulated CD25 and produced IFN-γ, the IL-18Rα(lo) exhausted cells failed to respond. Collectively, these findings indicate that as exhausted T cells adjust to the chronically infected environment, they lose their susceptibility to antigen-independent activation by cytokines, which compromises their ability to detect bacterial co-infections.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Ingram, Jennifer T, John S Yi and Allan J Zajac (2011). Exhausted CD8 T cells downregulate the IL-18 receptor and become unresponsive to inflammatory cytokines and bacterial co-infections. PLoS Pathog, 7(9). p. e1002273. 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002273 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/10220.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



John S Yi

Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery

I am an immunologist, with a focus to characterize the immune system in response to infectious and non-infectious diseases including cancer, HIV, autoimmune disease, and transplantation. My goals are to identify novel biomarkers/immune signatures that clinicians can utilize to diagnosis, predict disease outcomes, and determine patients' response to treatment. 

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.