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J Immunol. 1994 Dec 15;153(12):5402-12.

Antigen-presenting function of human endothelial cells. Direct activation of resting CD8 T cells.

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  • 1Molecular Cardiobiology Program, Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06536.


We characterized the response of resting human CD8 T cells to allogeneic endothelial cells (EC). Both resting and IFN-gamma-pretreated EC stimulate similar CD8 T cell proliferative responses (peak, day 5 to 6), whereas only IFN-gamma-pretreated EC stimulate CD4 T cells. The response increases with increasing numbers of CD8 T cells from 25,000 to 400,000/well. The proliferation of CD8 T cells is inhibited by mAbs reactive with CD8 or HLA-A and -B molecules but not with CD4 or HLA-DR. mAb blocking studies show a role for CD2, LFA-3, and CD59, but not for intercellular adhesion molecule-1, intercellular adhesion molecule-2, very late activation Ag-4, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, CD28, or CD28 ligand, as costimulatory molecules. The stimulation of resting CD8 T cells by EC causes secretion of IL-2 and IFN-gamma but not IL-4. Both proliferation and IFN-gamma secretion are inhibited by mAb to the IL-2R alpha subunit (CD25). Limiting dilution analysis suggests that approximately 1 in 20,000 resting CD8 T cells secrete IL-2 in response to allogeneic EC. EC stimulate greater than 1 in 10,000 CD8/CD45RO+ cells but fewer than 1 in 40,000 CD8/CD45RA+ cells, which indicates that primarily memory CD8 T cells respond to EC. Coculturing CD8 cells with EC stimulates a sufficient level of endothelial class II MHC expression to subsequently support a CD4 T cell proliferative response. The ability of memory CD8 T cells to proliferate against allogeneic EC, a nonclassical APC, and their ability to stimulate EC may contribute to the initiation of vascularized organ graft rejection.

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