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J Biol Chem. 1992 Jan 5;267(1):487-93.

Structural analysis of low TCR-CD3 complex expression in T cells of an immunodeficient patient.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé de la Recherche Medicale U 132, Hôpital Necker des Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


Normal membrane expression of the T cell receptor (TCR) depends on the coordinated synthesis and assembly of all seven proteins composing the complex, i.e. the TCR alpha and beta chains, the CD3 gamma, delta, and epsilon chains, and the zeta-zeta or zeta-eta dimer. In an experimental TCR membrane-defective T cell variant (Sussman, J. L., Bonifacino, J. S., Lippincott-Schwartz, J., Weissman, A. M., Saito, T., Klausner, R. D., and Ashwell, J. D. (1988) Cell 52, 85-95) and in two siblings whose lymphocytes express only a low level of the TCR/CD3 complex (Alarcon, B., Berkhout, B., Breitmeyer, J., and Terhorst, C. (1988) N. Engl. J. Med. 319, 1203-1208), a defect in zeta chain synthesis and/or assembly was thought to account for the defective membrane synthesis of the whole complex. We report on another immunodeficient patient whose T lymphocytes express the T cell receptor at one-tenth of normal fluorescence intensity and are not triggered to proliferate in vitro by anti-CD3 or anti-CD2 antibodies. Biochemical analysis of the patient's surface-iodinated peripheral blood lymphocytes failed to detect TCR alpha and beta, or CD3 gamma, delta, and epsilon proteins but revealed the presence of the zeta homodimer (probably as a result of the high proportion of natural killer cells). In the cytoplasm, TCR alpha and beta proteins and the zeta chain were detected, but, using monoclonal anti-CD3 antibodies, the CD3 gamma, delta, and epsilon chains were not. In addition, the CD3 epsilon chain was not detected with polyclonal antiserum in a very sensitive Western blotting detection system. The zeta chain was shown to be synthesized by the patient's T and natural killer cells. Northern blot analysis revealed normal levels of normal-size TCR beta and CD3 gamma, delta gene-specific mRNAs and decreased levels of TCR alpha mARN; CD3 epsilon gene transcripts were of abnormal size and present in lower than normal amounts. These findings suggest that this defect in T cell receptor-CD3 expression involves a mutation in the CD3 epsilon gene leading to the synthesis of an abnormal and unstable CD3 epsilon subunit.

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