TCR signal strength and infection
Here we characterized the differentiation of CD4 TCR transgenic T cells responding to a panel of recombinant wild type or altered peptide ligand lymphocytic choriomeningitis viruses (LCMV) derived from acute and chronic parental strains. We found that while TCR signal strength positively regulates T cell expansion in both infection settings, it exerts opposite and hierarchical effects on the balance of Th1 and Tfh cells generated in response to acute versus persistent infection. The observation that weakly activated T cells, which comprise up to fifty percent of an endogenous CD4 T cell response, support the development of Th1 effectors highlights the possibility that they may resist functional inactivation during chronic infection. We anticipate that the panel of variant ligands and recombinant viruses described herein will be a valuable tool for immunologists investigating a wide range of CD4 T cell responses.