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J Immunol. 1986 Aug 15;137(4):1194-201.

Transient modulation and internalization of T4 antigen induced by phorbol esters.


Phorbol esters are known to alter the expression of surface antigens and receptors on a variety of mammalian cell types. On T lymphoblastoid cell lines and peripheral blood T cells, phorbol esters have been shown to selectively reduce the expression of the T4 antigen. To more fully characterize this process, we have examined the metabolic requirements for this phorbol ester effect, and have evaluated the relationship between phorbol ester-induced T4 loss and the expression of receptors for phorbol-12,13-dibutyrate (PDB) on purified peripheral blood T4 cells. We observed that the loss of T4 on peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) occurred at PDB concentrations at which 10 to 15% of phorbol ester binding sites were occupied. The loss of T4 was inhibited at 4 degrees C, and by azide, methylamine, and sodium fluoride, but not by inhibitors of DNA synthesis. When cells were exposed to phorbol esters for greater than 2 days, the T4 antigen was again expressed on the cell surface despite the continued presence of phorbol esters. Cells which had recovered T4 were resistant to the effects of freshly added PDB on this antigen, and this resistance correlated with a 55% reduction in phorbol ester binding sites. Studies on fixed PBL T4 cells and MOLT-4 cells by immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrated that the decreased expression of T4 from the cell surface correlated with a bright clustering of T4 within the cytoplasm, indicating that PDB had induced an internalization of this antigen. These observations demonstrate that the binding of phorbol esters to specific receptors on lymphocytes initiates metabolically dependent events which result in the internalization of the T4 antigen. These findings may be relevant to mechanisms by which T4 functions as a signal-transducing molecule in vivo.

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