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Eur J Immunol. 2000 Jan;30(1):236-44.

Memory CD8 T lymphocytes express inhibitory MHC-specific Ly49 receptors.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Cancer Research Laboratory, University of California at Berkeley, Berkely, USA.


Natural killer (NK) cells survey potential targets using an array of receptors specific for major histocompatibility complex class I molecules. In mice, members of the Ly49 receptor gene family are expressed on overlapping subsets of NK cells and on CD1-restricted NK1 T cells. Here we characterize a population of memory cytotoxic (CD8(+)) T lymphocytes which also express inhibitory Ly49 family members. This cell population increases steadily with age; by 11 months, over one third of memory CD8(+) T cells express Ly49 molecules. These cells appear to express a normal TCR repertoire, and share several traits with previously activated T cells. Analysis of mutant mouse strains reveals that normal development of these cells depends upon the presence of the transporter associated with antigen presentation (TAP), classical class I molecules, and class II molecules. As a functional consequence of Ly49 expression, we demonstrate that T cell receptor-mediated activation of CD8(+) T cells is inhibited by Ly49 interactions with cognate class I molecules. We hypothesize that conventional memory CD8(+) T cells initiate Ly49 expression as a means of dampening an immune response and / or inhibiting T cell autoreactivity.

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