STAT5 Is Critical To Maintain Effector CD8+ T Cell Responses
During an immune response, most effector T cells die, whereas some are maintained and become memory T cells. Factors controlling the survival of effector CD4+ and CD8+ T cells remain unclear. In this study, we assessed the role of IL-7, IL-15, and their common signal transducer, STAT5, in maintaining effector CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses. Following viral infection, IL-15 was required to maintain a subpopulation of effector CD8+ T cells expressing high levels of killer cell lectin-like receptor subfamily G, member 1 (KLRG1), and lower levels of CD127, whereas IL-7 and IL-15 acted together to maintain KLRG1lowCD127high CD8+ effector T cells. In contrast, effector CD4+ T cell numbers were not affected by the individual or combined loss of IL-15 and IL-7. Both IL-7 and IL-15 drove phosphorylation of STAT5 within effector CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. When STAT5 was deleted during the course of infection, both KLRG1highCD127low and KLRG1lowCD127high CD8+ T cells were lost, although effector CD4+ T cell populations were maintained. Furthermore, STAT5 was required to maintain expression of Bcl-2 in effector CD8+, but not CD4+, T cells. Finally, IL-7 and IL-15 required STAT5 to induce Bcl-2 expression and to maintain effector CD8+ T cells. Together, these data demonstrate that IL-7 and IL-15 signaling converge on STAT5 to maintain effector CD8+ T cell responses.