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Immunol Lett. 2004 Jul 15;94(3):239-46.

Expression of membrane-bound and soluble receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL) in human T cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Immunology, Graduate School, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, 1-5-45 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8549, Japan.


The receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL) and its receptor RANK are critical regulators for immune responses as well as bone remodeling. RANKL is a type II transmembrane protein that has two forms-a membrane-anchored protein and a secreted protein. In this report, we demonstrate for the first time the kinetical expression of two forms of RANKL in human T cells using two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against human RANKL, which we newly derived. Freshly isolated T cells rarely expressed mRANKL, while the activation of T cells induced a substantial but minimal level of mRANKL as well as the accumulation of considerable amounts of sRANKL. The addition of the metalloprotease inhibitor KB-R8301 efficiently suppressed the release of sRANKL from activated T cells or RANKL-transfectants, and reciprocally enhanced the mRANKL expression. The membrane form of RANKL was also expressed on the infiltrating T cells in the rheumatoid synovial fluid and in the gingival tissues of patients with periodontitis. Our results demonstrate that the expression of mRANKL on T cells is strictly limited, and the majority of RANKL protein produced by T cells may be active in the soluble form after shedding. The mAbs that were derived in this study may be useful for investigating the regulation and function of RANKL in immune responses and bone remodeling.

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