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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Aug;115(2):260-6.

Peptide immunization indicates that CD8+ T cells are the dominant effector cells in trinitrophenyl-specific contact hypersensitivity.

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  • 1Clinical Research Group, Department of Dermatology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


The identity of the effector T cell population involved in contact hypersensitivity is still questionable with evidence promoting both CD4+ or CD8+ T cells. Previous experimental studies have relied on the in vivo depletion of T cell subsets using antibody, or the use of knock-out mice with deficiencies in either CD4+ or CD8+ T cell-mediated immunity. To address the role of the class I- and class II-mediated pathways of T cell activation in contact hypersensitivity responses in mice with an intact immune system, we utilized various trinitrophenyl-derivatized peptides, which bind specifically with H-2Kb (major histocompatibility complex class I) or H-2I-Ab (major histocompatibility complex class II). The subcutaneous injection of major histocompatibility complex class II-specific, but not of class I-binding, hapten-derivatized peptides in incomplete Freund's adjuvant induced specific, albeit low, contact hypersensitivity responsiveness to trinitrochlorobenzene. When bone-marrow-derived dendritic cells, however, were pulsed with the same peptides and administered intradermally, the opposite result was observed, namely that the class I binding peptides induced contact hypersensitivity responses similar to that observed after epicutaneous trinitrochlorobenzene application. In contrast, dendritic cells pulsed with major histocompatibility complex class II binding peptides did not reproducibly sensitize for contact hypersensitivity responses. Surprisingly, both immunization protocols efficiently induced CD8+ effector T cells. These results support the notion that CD8+ T cells are the dominant effector population mediating contact hypersensitivity responsiveness and that the CD4+ T cell subset only contributes little if at all.

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