The cellular basis of T cell memory is a controversial issue and progress has been hampered by the inability to induce and to trace long-term memory T cells specific for a defined antigen in vivo. By using the murine model of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection and an adoptive transfer system with CD8+ T cells from transgenic mice expressing an LCMV-specific T cell receptor, a population of authentic memory T cells specific for LCMV was generated and analyzed in vivo. The transgenic T cells that have expanded (1,000-fold) and then decreased (10-fold) in LCMV-infected C57BL/6 recipient mice exhibited the following characteristics: they were (a) of larger average cell size than their naive counterparts but smaller than day 8 effector cells; (b) heterogeneous with respect to expression of cell surface "memory" markers; and (c) directly cytolytic when isolated from recipient spleens. The time-dependent proliferative activity of these LCMV-specific memory T cells was analyzed in the recipients by bromodeoxyuridine labeling experiments in vivo. The experiments revealed that LCMV-specific CD8+ memory T cells can persist in LCMV-immune mice for extended periods of time (>2 mo) in the absence of cell division; the memory population as a whole survived beyond 11 mo.

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