A hallmark of the antigen-specific B and T lymphocytes of the adaptive immune system is their capacity to "remember" pathogens long after they are first encountered, a property that forms the basis for effective vaccine development. However, studies in mice have provided strong evidence that some naive T cells can develop characteristics of memory T cells in the absence of foreign antigen encounters. Such innate memory T cells may develop in response to lymphopenia or the presence of high levels of the cytokine IL-4, and have also been identified in unmanipulated animals, a phenomenal referred to as "virtual memory." While the presence of innate memory T cells in mice is now widely accepted, their presence in humans has not yet been fully validated. In this issue of the European Journal of Immunology, Jacomet et al. [Eur. J. Immunol. 2015. 45:1926-1933] provide the best evidence to date for innate memory T cells in humans. These findings may contribute significantly to our understanding of human immunity to microbial pathogens and tumors.
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