Listeria monocytogenes infected CD8α+ DCs in the spleen are essential for CD8+ T cell generation. CD8α+ DCs are also necessary for Listeria expansion and dissemination within the host. The mechanisms that regulate CD8α+ DCs to allow Listeria expansion are unclear. We find that activating the B and T lymphocyte attenuator (BTLA), a coinhibitory receptor for T cells, suppresses, while blocking BTLA enhances, both the primary and memory CD8 T cell responses against Listeria. Btla -/- mice have lower effector and memory CD8+ T cells while paradoxically also being more resistant to Listeria. Although bacterial entry into Btla-/- CD8α+ DCs is unaffected, Listeria fails to expand within these cells. BTLA signaling limits Fas/FasL-mediated suppression of Listeria expansion within CD8α+ DCs to more effectively alert adaptive immune cells. This study uncovers a BTLA-mediated strategy used by the host that permits Listeria proliferation to enable increasing T cell responses for long-term protection.
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