Elimination of superfluous antigenspecific lymphocytes at the termination of an immune response

After a transient stimulation of the immune system, such as an acute viral infection, most responding lymphocytes die, but some will survive as memory cells and maintain a state of equilibrium. There are two known mechanisms by which the superfluous lymphocytes are eliminated. The first mechanism is the loss of the antigenic stimulation that provides necessary survival and growth signals to lymphocytes; this loss results in apoptosis. The second mechanism is known as activation-induced cell death. When T cells are exposed to repeated antigenic stimulation such as by self-antigen, activation of the T cell also leads to the co-expression of Fas and Fas-ligand, resulting in the death of the T cell and possibly of neighbouring cells (4).

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