Flexibility for specificity

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Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220, pp. 371-372
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5082

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Different types of T lymphocytes play a key role in many immune responses, such as killing virally infected or cancerous cells directly, inducing high-affinity antibody responses in B cells, and increasing or decreasing responses from other immune cells. This multiplicity of roles may relate to their recognition properties, which are very difficult to evade. Moreover, cells are very diverse—for CD4+ T cells alone, there are at least six distinct subtypes. This raises the question of just how these different T cells are produced. Early evidence indicated that the type of T cell that dominates the response was dependent on the type of pathogen and route of entry (1, 2). However, over the past several years, more and more flexibility has been observed in a T cell's phenotype (3, 4). On page 400 of this issue, Becattini et al. (5) show that this flexibility is more the rule rather than the exception.