Patients surviving the acute stages of sepsis develop compromised T cell immunity and increased susceptibility to infection. Little is known about the decreased CD4 T cell function after sepsis. We tracked the loss and recovery of endogenous Ag-specific CD4 T cell populations after cecal ligation and puncture-induced sepsis and analyzed the CD4 T cell response to heterologous infection during or after recovery. We observed that the sepsis-induced early loss of CD4 T cells was followed by thymic-independent numerical recovery in the total CD4 T cell compartment. Despite this numerical recovery, we detected alterations in the composition of naive CD4 T cell precursor pools, with sustained quantitative reductions in some populations. Mice that had experienced sepsis and were then challenged with epitope-bearing, heterologous pathogens demonstrated significantly reduced priming of recovery-impaired Ag-specific CD4 T cell responses, with regard to both magnitude of expansion and functional capacity on a per-cell basis, which also correlated with intrinsic changes in Vβ clonotype heterogeneity. Our results demonstrate that the recovery of CD4 T cells from sepsis-induced lymphopenia is accompanied by alterations to the composition and function of the Ag-specific CD4 T cell repertoire.
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Copyright © 2015 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.