T-cells recognize protein antigens as short peptide fragments (8-20 amino acids) bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules on the surface of antigen-presenting cells (APCs). A prerequisite for antigen-specific T-cell activation is antigen uptake, enzymatic degradation, and recycling of MHC-peptide complexes to the surface of APCs. Whereas CD8+ T cells recognize endogenously derived antigen (virus and other intracellular pathogens) bound to MHC class I molecules, CD4+ T cells recognize exogenously derived antigen in complex with MHC class II molecules. Hence, extracellular bacteria, such as meningococci during invasive disease, will be presented to CD4+ T cells in the context of MHC class II molecules, after uptake and processing by professional APCs like B cells, macrophages, or dendritic cells. Antigen-specific CD4+ T cells can be classified as Th1 or Th2 subpopulations on the basis of different cytokine production and effector functions (1). Intracellular microbes often induce Th1-dominated responses, whereas extracellular pathogens and parasites typically trigger Th2 responses. Th1 cells produce mainly interleukin (IL)-2, interferon (IFN)-γ, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-β, which represent important inducers of the cell-mediated immune responses. The principal Th1 cytokine IFN-γ activates macrophages by enhancing their ability to phagocytize and destroy microbes by intracellular bactericidal mechanisms. In contrast, Th2 cells produce IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, and IL-13, which are important factors for inducing and regulating B-cell responses (1).

Original publication




Journal article


Methods Mol Med

Publication Date





339 - 348