Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Krishna V. Komanduri

Committee Member

Bradley W. McIntyre

Committee Member

David McConkey

Committee Member

Prahlad Ram

Committee Member

Qing Ma


While prior studies have focused on naïve (CD45RA+CD27+) and early stage memory (CD45RA-CD27+) CD8+ T cells, late memory CD8+ T cells (CD45RA+CD27) have received less interest because this subset of T cells is generally recognized as effectors, which produce IFNγ (but no IL-2) and perforin. However, multiple studies suggest that late memory CD8+ T cells may provide inadequate protection in infectious diseases and cancer models.

To better understand the unique function of late memory CD8+ T cells, I optimized multi-color flow cytometry techniques to assess the cytokine production of each human CD8+ T cell maturation subset. I demonstrated that late memory CD8+ T cells are the predominant producer of CC chemokines (e.g. MIP-1β), but rarely produce IL-2; therefore they do not co-produce IL-2/IFNγ (polyfunctionality), which has been shown to be critical for protective immunity against chronic viral infection. These data suggest that late memory CD8+ T cells are not just cytotoxic effectors, but may have unique functional properties.

Determining the molecular signature of each CD8+ T cell maturation subset will help characterize the role of late memory CD8+ T cells. Prior studies suggest that ERK1 and ERK2 play a role in cytokine production including IL-2 in T cells. Therefore, I tested whether differential expression of ERK1 and ERK2 in CD8+ T cell maturation subsets contributes to their functional signature by a novel flow cytometry technique. I found that the expression of total ERK1, but not ERK2, is significantly diminished in late memory CD8+ T cells and that ERK1 expression is strongly associated with IL-2 production and CD28 expression. I also found that IL-2 production is increased in late memory CD8+ T cells by over-expressing ERK1. Collectively, these data suggest that ERK1 is required for IL-2 production in human CD8+ T cells.

In summary, this dissertation demonstrated that ERK1 is down-regulated in human late memory CD8+ T cells, leading to decreased production of IL-2. The data in this dissertation also suggested that the functional heterogeneity in human CD8+ T cell maturation subsets results from their differential ERK1 expression.


Human, CD8, T cell, activation, chemokine, cytokine, ERK1, ERK2, IL-2, GVHD