Encyclopedia of Medical Immunology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Ian R. Mackay, Noel R. Rose, Betty Diamond, Anne Davidson

Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes

  • Rakesh K. Bakshi
  • Maureen A. Cox
  • Allan J. ZajacEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-84828-0_36


CTL; Cytotoxic T lymphocytes; Killer T cell; Tc


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes are specialized subsets of differentiated T cells which have the functional capability to kill target cells expressing nonself antigens. They are important components of the adaptive immune response and help control intracellular pathogens, as well as contain the development of tumors.

The Significance of Cytotoxic T Cells

Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are a cornerstone of the adaptive immune response (Cox and Zajac 2010; Zhang and Bevan 2011). Due to their exquisite ability to detect and destroy cells presenting foreign antigens, they play a vital role in the initial control of many intracellular pathogens as well as help confer long-lived immunological protection against subsequent reinfections. Even in situations when the infection is not completely eradicated, such as during persistent chronic or latent infections, CTL function to dampen the initial burst of pathogen replication and then...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rakesh K. Bakshi
    • 1
  • Maureen A. Cox
    • 1
  • Allan J. Zajac
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA