Upon infection, an activated CD4+ T cell produces terminally differentiated effector cells and renews itself for continued defense. In this study, we show that differentiation and self-renewal arise as opposing outcomes of sibling CD4+ T cells. After influenza challenge, antigen-specific cells underwent several divisions in draining lymph nodes (LN; DLNs) while maintaining expression of TCF1. After four or five divisions, some cells silenced, whereas some cells maintained TCF1 expression. TCF1-silenced cells were T helper 1–like effectors and concentrated in the lungs. Cells from earliest divisions were memory-like and concentrated in nondraining LN. TCF1-expressing cells from later divisions in the DLN could self-renew, clonally yielding a TCF1-silenced daughter cell as well as a sibling cell maintaining TCF1 expression. Some TCF1-expressing cells in DLNs acquired an alternative, follicular helper-like fate. Modeled differentiation experiments in vitro suggested that unequal PI3K/mechanistic target of rapamycin signaling drives intraclonal cell fate heterogeneity. Asymmetric division enables self-renewal to be coupled to production of differentiated CD4+ effector T cells during clonal selection.
- Submitted: 6 July 2016
- Revision received 6 October 2016
- Accepted: 10 November 2016
This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see http://www.rupress.org/terms/). After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License(Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/).