CD39 Expression Identifies Terminally Exhausted CD8+ T Cells

Prakash K. Gupta, Jernej Godec, David Wolski, Emily Adland, Kathleen Yates, Kristen E. Pauken, Patrick Gerard Cormac Cosgrove, Carola Ledderose, Wolfgang G. Junger, Simon C. Robson, E. John Wherry, Galit Alter, Philip J.R. Goulder, Paul Klenerman, Arlene H. Sharpe, Georg M. Lauer, W. Nicholas Haining*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

248 Scopus citations


Exhausted T cells express multiple co-inhibitory molecules that impair their function and limit immunity to chronic viral infection. Defining novel markers of exhaustion is important both for identifying and potentially reversing T cell exhaustion. Herein, we show that the ectonucleotidse CD39 is a marker of exhausted CD8+ T cells. CD8+ T cells specific for HCV or HIV express high levels of CD39, but those specific for EBV and CMV do not. CD39 expressed by CD8+ T cells in chronic infection is enzymatically active, co-expressed with PD-1, marks cells with a transcriptional signature of T cell exhaustion and correlates with viral load in HIV and HCV. In the mouse model of chronic Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus infection, virus-specific CD8+ T cells contain a population of CD39high CD8+ T cells that is absent in functional memory cells elicited by acute infection. This CD39high CD8+ T cell population is enriched for cells with the phenotypic and functional profile of terminal exhaustion. These findings provide a new marker of T cell exhaustion, and implicate the purinergic pathway in the regulation of T cell exhaustion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1005177
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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