Phenotypic and functional characterization of human T lymphocytes expressing a γ/δ T cell antigen receptor

L. Moretta, E. Ciccone, M. C. Mingari, J. Zeromski, C. Bottino, S. Ferrini, G. Tambussi, G. Melioli, C. E. Grossi, A. Moretta

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Most mature T lymphocytes express CD3-associated antigen receptor molecules (TCR) formed by alpha and beta chains. Recently, a minor subset has been identified that express a different CD3-associated TCR composed of gamma and delta chains. The cell subset expressing TCR gamma/delta differs from conventional T cells in a number of phenotypic and functional characteristics. The simultaneous lack of both CD4 and CD8 antigens at the cell surface allows one to greatly enrich for TCR gamma/delta+ cells (by monoclonal antibodies, mAbs and complement). Cloning of CD4-8- peripheral blood lymphocytes revealed that they are homogeneously composed of cytolytic cells which, in most instances, lyse tumor target cells. TCR gamma/delta+ cells proliferated in response to allogeneic cells in mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC) and MLC-derived TCR gamma/delta+ cells specifically lysed PHA-induced blast cells bearing the stimulating alloantigens, thus providing the formal proof that they recognize (allo)antigens. The use of different mAbs specific for TCR gamma/delta molecules allowed us to identify two distinct subsets which bound BB3 and delta-TCS-1 mAbs, respectively. The BB3-reactive molecules in peripheral blood-derived TCR gamma/delta+ cells were represented by Cγ 1-encoded disulphide-linked heterodimers, whereas delta-TCS-1 reacted with Cγ2-encoded non disulphide-linked molecules. Both BB3 and delta-TCS-1 mAb induced 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 unfrequent delta-TCS-1+clones which express surface CD8 molecules revealed that the 'heavy' 55 kD form of the (Cγ 2-encoded) gamma-chain is selectively expressed by this cell type. Analysis of the distribution of the subsets expressing different TCR gamma/delta isotypes showed that the Cγ1-encoded, BB3-reactive form is prevalent in the peripheral blood and virtually absent in the thymus. In contrast, cells expressing the Cγ2-encoded, delta-TCS-1 reactive form are relatively infrequent in peripheral blood, but represent the majority of TCR gamma/delta+ thymocytes. In addition, upon culture in rIL-2, noticeable proportions of the delta-TCS-1+ thymocytes expressed CD8 antigen, thus providing further evidence that major differences exist in the distribution of TCR gamma/delta+ subsets in thymus and in peripheral blood.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Rheumatology


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