Default polyfunctional T helper 1 response to ample signal 1 alone

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Abstract

CD4+ T cells integrate well-defined signals from the T-cell receptor (TCR) (signal 1) and a host of costimulatory molecules (signal 2) to initiate clonal expansion and differentiation into diverse functional T helper (Th) subsets. However, our ability to guide the expansion of context-appropriate Th subsets by deploying these signals in vaccination remains limited. Using cell-based vaccines, we selectively amplified signal 1 by exclusive presentation of an optimized peptide:MHC II (pMHC II) complex in the absence of classic costimulation. Contrary to expectations, amplified signal 1 alone was strongly immunogenic and selectively expanded high-affinity TCR clonotypes, despite delivering intense TCR signals. In contrast to natural infection or standard vaccines, amplified signal 1, presented by a variety of professional and nonprofessional antigen-presenting cells (APCs), induced exclusively polyfunctional Th1 effector and memory cells, which protected against retroviral infection and tumor challenge, and expanded tumor-reactive CD4+ T cells otherwise rendered unresponsive in tumor-bearing hosts. Together, our findings uncover a default Th1 response to ample signal 1 and offer a means to selectively prime such protective responses by vaccination.

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