A prominent population of innate CD8+ T cells develops in the thymus of several gene-deficient mouse strains, including Itk, KLF2, CBP and Id3. These cells have the phenotype and function of memory CD8+ T cells, without previous exposure to antigen. Surprisingly, the cytokine IL-4 plays a key role in their development. As this developmental mechanism was discovered, it came to light that innate CD8+ T cells exist also in normal mice and in humans. In this review, we discuss how these cells develop, compare and contrast them to other CD8 memory cells, and discuss their potential physiological relevance.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants to K.A.H. (AI39560) and S.C.J. (AI38903).