Gastrointestinal viral infections are a major global cause of disease and mortality in infants. Cytotoxic CD8+ T cells are critical to achieve viral control. However, studies investigating the development of CD8+ T cell immunity in human tissues early in life are lacking. Here, we investigated the maturation of the CD8+ T cell compartment in human fetal, infant and adult intestinal tissues. CD8+ T cells exhibiting a memory phenotype were already detected in fetal intestines and increased after birth. Infant intestines preferentially harbored effector CCR7−CD45RA−CD127−KLRG1+/− CD8+ T cells compared to tissue-resident memory CD69+CD103+CD8+ T cells detected in adults. Functional cytotoxic capacity, including cytokine and granzyme B production of infant intestinal effector CD8+ T cells was, however, markedly reduced compared to adult intestinal CD8+ T cells. This was in line with the high expression of the inhibitory molecule PD-1 by infant intestinal effector CD8+ T cells. Taken together, we demonstrate that intestinal CD8+ T cell responses are induced early in human development, however exhibit a reduced functionality. The impaired CD8+ T cell functionality early in life contributes to tolerance during foreign antigen exposure after birth, however functions as an immune correlate for the increased susceptibility to gastrointestinal viral infections in infancy.
|Number of pages||10|
|Early online date||2021|
|Publication status||Published - 1 May 2021|