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Eur J Immunol. 2001 Feb;31(2):459-66.

Human CD8(+) T cells expressing HLA-DR and CD28 show telomerase activity and are distinct from cytolytic effector T cells.

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Division of Clinical Onco-Immunology, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Cycling lymphocytes may express the enzyme telomerase which is involved in maintenance of telomere length and cell proliferation potential. In CD8(+) T cells freshly isolated from peripheral blood, we found that in vivo cycling cells expressed HLA-DR. Furthermore, CD28-positive cells are known to have longer telomeres than CD28-negative T cells. Therefore we used HLA-DR- and CD28-specific antibodies to sort CD8(+) T cells and measure telomerase activity ex vivo. Relatively high levels of telomerase activity were found in HLA-DR/CD28 double-positive cells. In contrast, HLA-DR-negative and CD28-negative cells had almost no telomerase activity. In summary, HLA-DR expression correlates with proliferation, and CD28 expression with proliferative potential. We have previously identified that ex vivo cytolytic CD8(+) T cells are CD56 (NCAM) positive. Here we show that HLA-DR(+) cells were rarely CD56(+) and vice versa. This demonstrates that telomerase-expressing and cytolytic CD8(+) T cells can be separated on the basis of the cell surface markers HLA-DR and CD56. Thus, activated CD8(+) T cells specialize and exert distinct functions correlating with surface molecule expression.

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