Naive T cell

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A naïve T cell is a T cell that has differentiated in bone marrow, and successfully undergone the positive and negative processes of central selection in the thymus. Among these are the naïve forms of helper T cells (CD4+) and cytotoxic T cells (CD8+). A naïve T cell is considered mature and unlike activated, or memory T cells it has not encountered its cognate antigen within the periphery.


Naïve T cells are commonly characterized by the surface expression of L-selectin (CD62L); the absence of the activation markers CD25, CD44 or CD69; and the absence of memory CD45RO isoform.[1] They also express functional IL-7 receptors, consisting of subunits IL-7 receptor-α, CD127, and common-γ chain, CD132. In the naïve state, T cells are thought to be quiescent and non-dividing, requiring the common-gamma chain cytokines IL-7 and IL-15 for homeostatic survival mechanisms.[citation needed]


Naïve T cells can respond to novel pathogens that the immune system has not yet encountered. Recognition by a naïve T cell clone of its cognate antigen results in the initiation of an immune response. In turn, this results in the T cell acquiring an activated phenotype seen by the up-regulation of surface markers CD25+, CD44+, CD62Llow, CD69+ and may further differentiate into a memory T cell.

Having adequate numbers of naïve T cells is essential for the immune system to continuously respond to unfamiliar pathogens.

Mechanism of activation[edit]

When a recognized antigen binds to the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) located in the cell membrane of Th0 cells, these cells are activated through the following "classical" signal transduction cascade:[2]

An alternative "non-classical" pathway involves activated Zap70 directly phosphorylating the p38 MAPK that in turn induces the expression of the vitamin D receptor (VDR). Furthermore, the expression of PLC-γ1 is dependent on VDR activated by calcitriol.[2] Naïve T cells have very low expression of VDR and PLC-γ1. However activated TCR signaling through p38 upregulates VDR expression and calcitriol activated VDR in turn upregulates PLC-γ1 expression. Hence the activation of naïve T cells is crucially dependent on adequate calcitriol levels.[2]

In summary, activation of T cells first requires activation through the non-classical pathway to increase expression of VDR and PLC-γ1 before activation through the classical pathway can proceed. This provides a delayed response mechanism where the innate immune system is allowed time (~48 hrs) to clear an infection before the inflammatory T cell mediated adaptive immune response kicks in.[2]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ De Rosa SC, Herzenberg LA, Herzenberg LA, Roederer M (February 2001). "11-color, 13-parameter flow cytometry: identification of human naive T cells by phenotype, function, and T-cell receptor diversity". Nat. Med. 7 (2): 245–8. doi:10.1038/84701. PMID 11175858. 
  2. ^ a b c d von Essen MR, Kongsbak M, Schjerling P, Olgaard K, Odum N, Geisler C (April 2010). "Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells" (PDF). Nat. Immunol. 11 (4): 344–9. doi:10.1038/ni.1851. PMID 20208539.