Laboratory mice develop populations of circulating memory CD4+ T cells in the absence of overt infection. We have previously shown that these populations are replenished from naive precursors at high levels throughout life (Gossel et al., 2017). However, the nature, relative importance and timing of the forces generating these cells remain unclear. Here, we tracked the generation of memory CD4+ T cell subsets in mice housed in facilities differing in their 'dirtiness'. We found evidence for sequential naive to central memory to effector memory development, and confirmed that both memory subsets are heterogeneous in their rates of turnover. We also inferred that early exposure to self and environmental antigens establishes persistent memory populations at levels determined largely, although not exclusively, by the dirtiness of the environment. After the first few weeks of life, however, these populations are continuously supplemented by new memory cells at rates that are independent of environment.
T cell, immunology, inflammation, memory, microbiome, mouse