Migration of naive, effector and memory T cells: Implications for the regulation of immune responses

Jürgen Westermann*, Eva Maria Ehlers, Michael S. Exton, Marcus Kaiser, Ulrike Bode

*Corresponding author for this work
47 Citations (Scopus)


T cells play an important role in protective immune responses and in the pathogenesis of many diseases. Understanding the mechanisms regulating their distribution in vivo may therefore be of therapeutic value. Reviewing studies that have followed the migration of labelled naive, effector and memory T cells in healthy animals reveals that all T-cell subsets enter all organs investigated. Within the tissue, two principally different migration patterns can be identified. First, naive and memory T cells accumulate in lymphoid organs for about 48 h after injection, as the time needed for migration through lymphoid organs is longer than through non-lymphoid organs. During this time, surface molecule expression is temporarily modified. These changes are reversed before leaving the lymphoid organs and entering the blood to start a new cycle of migration. Second, effector T cells are evenly distributed throughout the body, and most die in the tissues within 24 h. However, depending on the presence of cytokines, some are able to survive and to proliferate, and thereby accumulate in defined microenvironments of the body. Analysing the principles regulating T-cell migration and survival within the tissue may lead to the development of new options for the treatment of disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalImmunological Reviews
Pages (from-to)20-37
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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