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Dynamics and turnover of memory CD8 T cell responses following yellow fever vaccination

By Veronika I Zarnitsyna, Rama S Akondy, Hasan Ahmed, Don J McGuire, Vladimir G Zarnitsyn, Mia Moore, Philip L F Johnson, Rafi Ahmed, Kelvin Li, Marc Hellerstein, Rustom Antia

Posted 23 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.23.427919

Understanding how immunological memory lasts a lifetime requires quantifying changes in the number of memory cells as well as how their division and death rates change over time. We address these questions by using a statistically powerful mixed-effects differential equations framework to analyze data from two human studies that follow CD8 T cell responses to the yellow fever vaccine (YFV-17D). Models were first fit to the frequency and division rates of YFV-specific memory CD8 T cells 42 days to 1 year post-vaccination. A different dataset, on the loss of YFV-specific CD8 T cells over three decades, was used to assess out of sample predictions of our models. The commonly used exponential and bi-exponential decline models performed relatively poorly. Models with the cell loss following a power law (exactly or approximately) were most predictive. Notably, using only the first year of data, these models accurately predicted T cell frequencies up to 30 years post-vaccination. Our analyses suggest that division rates of these cells drop and plateau at a low level (0.001 per day, [~]double estimates for naive T cells) within one year following vaccination, whereas death rates continue to decline for much longer. Our results show that power laws can be predictive for T cell memory, a finding that may be useful for vaccine evaluation and epidemiological modeling. Moreover, since power laws asymptotically decline more slowly than any exponential decline, our results help explain the longevity of immune memory phenomenologically.

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