Considerable advances have been made in recent years in understanding the generation and function of memory T cells. Memory T cells are typically parsed into discreet subsets based on phenotypic definitions that connote distinct roles in immunity. Here we consider new developments in the field and focus on how emerging differences between memory cells with respect to their trafficking, metabolism, epigenetic regulation, and longevity may fail to fit into small groups of “memory subsets.” Rather, the properties of individual memory T cells fall on a continuum within each of these and other parameters. We discuss how this continuum influences the way that the efficacy of vaccination is assessed, as well as the suitability of a memory population for protective immunity. Memory T cells are typically parsed into discreet subsets based on phenotypic definitions that connote distinct roles in immunity. Jameson and Masopust argue that the conventional subset nomenclature fails to accurately encompass the distribution of functional traits within this diverse population.
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