IL-21 has been shown to play an important role in the CD8 T cell response during acute and chronic viral infections. However, the role of IL-21 signaling in the CD4 T cell response to viral infection remains incompletely defined. In a model of infection with vaccinia virus, we show that intrinsic IL-21 signaling on CD4 T cells was critical for the formation of memory CD4 T cells in vivo. We further reveal that IL-21 promoted CD4 T cell survival in a mechanism dependent on activation of the STAT1 and STAT3 signaling pathways. In addition, the activation of Akt is also required for IL-21–dependent survival of CD4 T cells in vivo. These results identify a critical role for intrinsic IL-21 signaling in CD4 T cell survival and memory formation in response to viral infection in vivo and may provide insights into the design of effective vaccine strategies.
Yuqing Yuan, Yiping Yang, Xiaopei Huang
Akt is required for IL-21–dependent CD4 T cell survival in vivo.