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Int Immunol. 1998 May;10(5):619-30.

Role of co-stimulation in CD8+ T cell activation.

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  • 1Unité de Biologie Moléculaire du Gène, INSERM U277, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


The two-signal model states that activation of naive T cells requires a signal 1 stimulus through the TCR and a co-stimulatory signal 2. By contrast, signal 1 alone is sufficient for pre-activated T cells. Recently, however, it has been shown that under certain conditions T cells can bypass the requirement for co-stimulation. For example, CD28-deficient mice, when immunized with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, mount a vigorous cytotoxic T lymphocyte response and clear the virus. As a continuous effort to unravel the mechanisms of T cell activation, we previously reported activation of hybridoma T cells by recombinant single-chain MHC molecules in the absence of antigen-presenting cells. In such reconstitution experiments, since the signals delivered to the T cells are well controlled, the contribution of any known or unknown signals can be ruled out. In the present study, we analyzed the requirements for activation of naive T cells by using splenocytes from TCR transgenic mice as a source of responding cells. We observed that naive CD8+ T cells are fully activated by signal 1 alone, but that co-stimulation lowers their activation threshold. Previously activated T cells are fully responsive, even when the first stimulation was performed in the absence of co-stimulation. They display a low activation threshold and are insensitive to co-stimulation. The physiological relevance of this finding and its consequences for immunotherapy as well as for our understanding of self-tolerance are discussed.

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