Cytokine production by mature and immature CD4-CD8- T cells. Alpha beta-T cell receptor+ CD4-CD8- T cells produce IL-4

A Zlotnik, D I Godfrey, M Fischer, T Suda
Journal of Immunology 1992 August 15, 149 (4): 1211-5
This study follows our previous investigation describing the production of four cytokines (IL-2, IL-4, IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha) by subsets of thymocytes defined by the expression of CD3, 4, 8, and 25. Here we investigate in greater detail subpopulations of CD4-CD8- double negative (DN) thymocytes. First we divided immature CD25-CD4-CD8-CD3- (CD25- triple negative) (TN) thymocytes into CD44+ and CD44- subsets. The CD44+ population includes very immature precursor T cells and produced high titers of IL-2, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma upon activation with calcium ionophore and phorbol ester. In contrast, the CD44- subset of CD25- TN thymocytes did not produce any of the cytokines studied under similar activation conditions. This observation indicates that the latter subset, which differentiates spontaneously in vitro into CD4+CD8+, already resembles CD4+CD8+ thymocytes (which do not produce any of the tested cytokines). We also subdivided the more mature CD3+ DN thymocytes into TCR-alpha beta- and TCR-gamma delta-bearing subsets. These cells produced cytokines upon activation with solid phase anti-CD3 mAb. gamma delta TCR+ DN thymocytes produced IL-2, IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, whereas alpha beta TCR+ DN thymocytes produced IL-4, IFN-gamma, and TNF-alpha but not IL-2. We then studied alpha beta TCR+ DN T cells isolated from the spleen and found a similar cytokine production profile. Furthermore, splenic alpha beta TCR+ DN cells showed a TCR V beta gene expression profile reminiscent of alpha beta TCR+ DN thymocytes (predominant use of V beta 8.2). These observations suggest that at least some alpha beta TCR+ DN splenocytes are derived from alpha beta TCR+ DN thymocytes and also raises the possibility that these cells may play a role in the development of Th2 responses through their production of IL-4.

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