Functional and morphologic characterization of human T lymphocytes expressing the TCR gamma /delta

Carlo E. Grossi, Ermanno Ciccone, Jan Zeromski, Alessandro Moretta, Lorenzo Moretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A minor subset of T lymphocytes express a TCR composed of gamma and delta chains. This subset differs from conventional T cells for a number of phenotypic and functional characteristics. TCR gamma/delta+ cells simultaneously lack both CD4 and CD8 antigens. Cloning of CD4-8- peripheral blood lymphocytes, under limiting dilution conditions, revealed that they are homogeneously composed of cytolytic cells which efficiently lyse tumor target cells. Formal proofs have been provided that TCR gamma/delta+ cells are able to recognize antigens. For example, they proliferated in response to allogeneic mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC); in addition, MLC-derived TCR gamma/delta+ cells specifically lysed PHA-induced blast cells bearing the stimulating alloantigens. The selection of monoclonal antibodies specific for TCR gamma/delta molecules allowed to identify two distinct subsets of TCR gamma/delta+ cells. Both of these mABs, termed BB3 and delta TCS-1 respectively, induced specific activation of cloned cells expressing the corresponding antigenic determinants (as assessed by measurements of intracellular Ca++ and/or lymphokine production or cytolytic activity). Analysis of the distribution of subsets expressing different forms of TCR gamma/delta, showed that the BB3-reactive form is prevalent in the peripheral blood. In contrast, delta-TCS-1-reactive cells are relatively unfrequent in peripheral blood but represent the majority of TCR gamma/delta+ cells in tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1992


  • Cell-mediated cytotoxicity
  • Lymphocyte subsets
  • T cell receptor
  • T lymphocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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