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Immunol Cell Biol. 2004 Jun;82(3):260-8.

T cell activation: in vivo veritas.

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  • 1Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia.


Phenotypic changes in CD4(+) T cells undergoing antigen-dependent activation were compared in vivo and in vitro. The most obvious difference was in expression of CD25, the alpha chain of the high affinity receptor for IL-2. High level expression of CD25 in vivo is restricted to a small fraction of the cells at the leading edge of the cell division profile, whereas all activated cells express high levels of CD25 in cultures responding to antigen. Because IL-2 is known to upregulate expression of CD25 in preactivated T cells, this suggests a difference in IL-2 exposure in the two responses. A number of other markers, including CD54, show a similar difference in the pattern of expression in vivo and in vitro. Using 6-colour flow cytometry, it was demonstrated that the small percentage of cells expressing CD25 in vivo coexpresses a very high level of a number of other activation markers, including CD38, CD44 and Ly-6A/E, suggesting that these may also be upregulated by autocrine IL-2.

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