The CD4-centered universe of human T cell subsets

J. Geginat, M. Paroni, F. Facciotti, P. Gruarin, I. Kastirr, F. Caprioli, M. Pagani, S. Abrignani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans are continuously exposed to a high number of diverse pathogens that induce different types of immune responses. Primary pathogen-specific immune responses generate multiple subsets of memory T cells, which provide protection against secondary infections. In recent years, several novel T cell subsets have been identified and have significantly broadened our knowledge about T cell differentiation and the regulation of immune responses. At the same time the rapidly growing number of incompletely characterized T cell subsets has also generated some controversies. We therefore review here the current knowledge on features and functions of human α/β T cell subsets, focusing on CD4+ T cells classified according to cytokine production and tissue localization. The principal helper and regulatory T cell subsets can be identified by a limited number of relevant surface markers, which are an integral part of the T cell differentiation programs because they are directly induced by the relevant lineage-defining transcription factors. In vivo occurring human T cell subsets can thus be purified directly ex vivo from relevant tissues for molecular and functional studies, and represent not only an ideal model to study T cell differentiation, but they also offer important clinical opportunities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-262
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 15 2013


  • CD4 memory T cells
  • Cytokines
  • T cell differentiation
  • Tissue homing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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