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BMC Genomics. 2008 May 16;9:225. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-9-225.

Comparative analysis of transcriptional profiling of CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells identifies novel immune response players in T-cell activation.

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  • 1Interdepartmental Biological Sciences Program, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.



T-cell activation is an essential step of the immune response and relies on the tightly controlled orchestration of hundreds of genes/proteins, yet the cellular and molecular events underlying this complex process are not fully understood, especially at the genome-scale. Significantly, a comparative genome-scale transcriptional analysis of two T-cell subsets (CD4+ and CD8+) against each other and against the naturally mixed population (CD3+ cells) remains unexplored.


Comparison of the microarray-based gene expression patterns between CD3+ T cells, and the CD4+ and CD8+ subsets revealed largely conserved, but not identical, transcriptional patterns. We employed a Gene-Ontology-driven transcriptional analysis coupled with protein abundance assays in order to identify novel T-cell activation genes and cell-type-specific genes associated with the immune response. We identified potential genes involved in the communication between the two subsets (including IL23A, NR4A2, CD83, PSMB2, -8, MIF, IFI16, TNFAIP1, POU2AF1, and OTUB1) and would-be effector-function-specific genes (XCL2, SLAMF7, TNFSF4, -5, -9, CSF3, CD48 and CD244). Chemokines induced during T-cell activation, but not previously identified in T cells, include CCL20, CXCL9, -10, -11 (in all three populations), and XCL2 (preferentially in CD8+ T cells). Increased expression of other unexpected cytokines (GPI, OSM and MIF) suggests their involvement in T-cell activation with their functions yet to be examined. Differential expression of many receptors, not previously reported in the context of T-cell activation, including CCR5, CCR7, IL1R2, IL1RAP, IL6R, TNFRSF25 and TNFRSF1A, suggests their role in this immune process. Several receptors involved in TCR activation (CD3D, CD3G, TRAT1, ITGAL, ITGB1, ITGB2, CD8A and B (CD8+ T-cell specific) along with LCK, ZAP70 and TYROBP were synchronously downregulated. Members of cell-surface receptors (HLA-Ds and KLRs), none previously identified in the context of T-cell activation, were also downregulated.


This comparative genome-scale, transcriptional analysis of T-cell activation in the CD4+ and CD8+ subsets and the mixed CD3+ populations made possible the identification of many immune-response genes not previously identified in the context of T-cell activation. Significantly, it made possible to identify the temporal patterns of many previously known T-cell activation genes, and also identify genes implicated in effector functions of and communication between CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

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