Effective vaccines have reduced SARS-CoV-2 morbidity and mortality; however, the elderly remain the most at risk. Understanding how vaccines generate protective immunity, and how these mechanisms change with age is key for informing future vaccine design. Cytotoxic CD8 T cells are important for killing virally infected cells, and vaccines that induce antigen specific CD8 T cells in addition to humoral immunity provide an extra layer of immune protection. This is particularly important in cases where antibody titres are sub-optimal, as can occur in older individuals. Here, we show that in aged mice, spike-epitope specific CD8 T cells are generated in comparable numbers to younger animals after ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccination, although phenotypic differences exist. This demonstrates that ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 elicits a good CD8 T cell response in older bodies, but that typical age-associated features are evident on these vaccine reactive T cells.
Bach2 codes for a transcriptional regulator exerting major influences on T cell mediated immune regulation. Effector CTLs derived from in vitro activation of murine CD8 T cells showed increased proliferative and cytolytic capacity in the absence of BACH2. Before activation, BACH2-deficient splenic CD8 T cells had a higher abundance of memory and reduced abundance of naïve cells compared to wild-type. CTLs derived from central memory T cells were more potently cytotoxic than those derived from naïve T cells, but even within separated subsets, BACH2-deficiency conferred a cytotoxic advantage. Immunofluorescence and electron microscopy revealed larger granules in BACH2-deficient compared to wild-type CTLs, and proteomic analysis showed an increase in granule content, including perforin and granzymes. Thus, the enhanced cytotoxicity observed in effector CTLs lacking BACH2 arises not only from differences in their initial differentiation state but also inherent production of enlarged cytolytic granules. These results demonstrate how a single gene deletion can produce a CTL super-killer. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
The advent of technologies that can characterize the phenotypes, functions and fates of individual cells has revealed extensive and often unexpected levels of diversity between cells that are nominally of the same subset. CD8 T cells, also known as cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs), are no exception. Investigations of individual CD8 T cells both and have highlighted the heterogeneity of cellular responses at the levels of activation, differentiation and function. This review takes a broad perspective on the topic of heterogeneity, outlining different forms of variation that arise during a CD8 T cell response. Specific attention is paid to the impact of T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation strength on heterogeneity. In particular, this review endeavors to highlight connections between variation at different cellular stages, presenting known mechanisms and key open questions about how variation between cells can arise and propagate.
How T lymphocytes tune their responses to different strengths of stimulation is a fundamental question in immunology. Recent work using new optogenetic, single-cell genomic, and live-imaging approaches has revealed that stimulation strength controls the rate of individual cell responses within a population. Moreover, these responses have been found to use shared molecular programs, regardless of stimulation strength. However, additional data indicate that stimulation duration or cytokine feedback can impact later gene expression phenotypes of activated cells. In-depth molecular studies have suggested mechanisms by which stimulation strength might modulate the probability of T cell activation. This emerging model allows activating T cells to achieve a wide range of population responses through probabilistic control within individual cells.
Millions of naïve T cells with different TCRs may interact with a peptide-MHC ligand, but very few will activate. Remarkably, this fine control is orchestrated using a limited set of intracellular machinery. It remains unclear whether changes in stimulation strength alter the programme of signalling events leading to T cell activation. Using mass cytometry to simultaneously measure multiple signalling pathways during activation of murine CD8 T cells, we found a programme of distal signalling events that is shared, regardless of the strength of TCR stimulation. Moreover, the relationship between transcription of early response genes and and activation of the ribosomal protein S6 is also conserved across stimuli. Instead, we found that stimulation strength dictates the rate with which cells initiate signalling through this network. These data suggest that TCR-induced signalling results in a coordinated activation program, modulated in rate but not organization by stimulation strength.
Chronic inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) results from a breakdown of intestinal immune homeostasis and compromise of the intestinal barrier. Genome-wide association studies have identified over 200 genetic loci associated with risk for IBD, but the functional mechanisms of most of these genetic variants remain unknown. Polymorphisms at the TNFSF15 locus, which encodes the TNF superfamily cytokine commonly known as TL1A, are associated with susceptibility to IBD in multiple ethnic groups. In a wide variety of murine models of inflammation including models of IBD, TNFSF15 promotes immunopathology by signaling through its receptor DR3. Such evidence has led to the hypothesis that expression of this lymphocyte costimulatory cytokine increases risk for IBD. In contrast, here we show that the IBD-risk haplotype at TNFSF15 is associated with decreased expression of the gene by peripheral blood monocytes in both healthy volunteers and IBD patients. This association persists under various stimulation conditions at both the RNA and protein levels and is maintained after macrophage differentiation. Utilizing a "recall-by-genotype" bioresource for allele-specific expression measurements in a functional fine-mapping assay, we localize the polymorphism controlling TNFSF15 expression to the regulatory region upstream of the gene. Through a T cell costimulation assay, we demonstrate that genetically regulated TNFSF15 has functional relevance. These findings indicate that genetically enhanced expression of TNFSF15 in specific cell types may confer protection against the development of IBD.
Cell-to-cell transcriptional variability in otherwise homogeneous cell populations plays an important role in tissue function and development. Single-cell RNA sequencing can characterize this variability in a transcriptome-wide manner. However, technical variation and the confounding between variability and mean expression estimates hinder meaningful comparison of expression variability between cell populations. To address this problem, we introduce an analysis approach that extends the BASiCS statistical framework to derive a residual measure of variability that is not confounded by mean expression. This includes a robust procedure for quantifying technical noise in experiments where technical spike-in molecules are not available. We illustrate how our method provides biological insight into the dynamics of cell-to-cell expression variability, highlighting a synchronization of biosynthetic machinery components in immune cells upon activation. In contrast to the uniform up-regulation of the biosynthetic machinery, CD4 T cells show heterogeneous up-regulation of immune-related and lineage-defining genes during activation and differentiation.
How cells respond to myriad stimuli with finite signaling machinery is central to immunology. In naive T cells, the inherent effect of ligand strength on activation pathways and endpoints has remained controversial, confounded by environmental fluctuations and intercellular variability within populations. Here we studied how ligand potency affected the activation of CD8 T cells in vitro, through the use of genome-wide RNA, multi-dimensional protein and functional measurements in single cells. Our data revealed that strong ligands drove more efficient and uniform activation than did weak ligands, but all activated cells were fully cytolytic. Notably, activation followed the same transcriptional pathways regardless of ligand potency. Thus, stimulation strength did not intrinsically dictate the T cell-activation route or phenotype; instead, it controlled how rapidly and simultaneously the cells initiated activation, allowing limited machinery to elicit wide-ranging responses.
Barcode swapping results in the mislabelling of sequencing reads between multiplexed samples on patterned flow-cell Illumina sequencing machines. This may compromise the validity of numerous genomic assays; however, the severity and consequences of barcode swapping remain poorly understood. We have used two statistical approaches to robustly quantify the fraction of swapped reads in two plate-based single-cell RNA-sequencing datasets. We found that approximately 2.5% of reads were mislabelled between samples on the HiSeq 4000, which is lower than previous reports. We observed no correlation between the swapped fraction of reads and the concentration of free barcode across plates. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that barcode swapping may generate complex but artefactual cell libraries in droplet-based single-cell RNA-sequencing studies. To eliminate these artefacts, we have developed an algorithm to exclude individual molecules that have swapped between samples in 10x Genomics experiments, allowing the continued use of cutting-edge sequencing machines for these assays.
When comparing biological conditions using mass cytometry data, a key challenge is to identify cellular populations that change in abundance. Here, we present a computational strategy for detecting 'differentially abundant' populations by assigning cells to hyperspheres, testing for significant differences between conditions and controlling the spatial false discovery rate. Our method (http://bioconductor.org/packages/cydar) outperforms other approaches in simulations and finds novel patterns of differential abundance in real data.
The TNF family cytokine TL1A (Tnfsf15) costimulates T cells and type 2 innate lymphocytes (ILC2) through its receptor DR3 (Tnfrsf25). DR3-deficient mice have reduced T cell accumulation at the site of inflammation and reduced ILC2-dependent immune responses in a number of models of autoimmune and allergic diseases. In allergic lung disease models, immunopathology and local Th2 and ILC2 accumulation is reduced in DR3-deficient mice despite normal systemic priming of Th2 responses and generation of T cells secreting IL-13 and IL-4, prompting the question of whether TL1A promotes the development of other T cell subsets that secrete cytokines to drive allergic disease. In this study, we find that TL1A potently promotes generation of murine T cells producing IL-9 (Th9) by signaling through DR3 in a cell-intrinsic manner. TL1A enhances Th9 differentiation through an IL-2 and STAT5-dependent mechanism, unlike the TNF-family member OX40, which promotes Th9 through IL-4 and STAT6. Th9 differentiated in the presence of TL1A are more pathogenic, and endogenous TL1A signaling through DR3 on T cells is required for maximal pathology and IL-9 production in allergic lung inflammation. Taken together, these data identify TL1A-DR3 interactions as a novel pathway that promotes Th9 differentiation and pathogenicity. TL1A may be a potential therapeutic target in diseases dependent on IL-9.