How tissue-specific anatomical distribution and phenotypic specialization are linked to protective efficacy of memory T cells against reinfection is unclear. Here, we show that lung environmental cues program recently recruited central-like memory cells with migratory potentials for their tissue-specific functions during lethal respiratory virus infection. After entering the lung, some central-like cells retain their original CD27hiCXCR3hi phenotype, enabling them to localize near the infected bronchiolar epithelium and airway lumen to function as the first line of defense against pathogen encounter. Others, in response to local cytokine triggers, undergo a secondary program of differentiation that leads to the loss of CXCR3, migration arrest, and clustering within peribronchoarterial areas and in interalveolar septa. Here, the immune system adapts its response to prevent systemic viral dissemination and mortality. These results reveal the striking and unexpected spatial organization of central- versus effector-like memory cells within the lung and how cooperation between these two subsets contributes to host defense.
- Submitted: 2 February 2016
- Revision received 9 June 2016
- Accepted: 21 October 2016
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