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J Immunol. 2002 Apr 15;168(8):3839-46.

Formation of the killer Ig-like receptor repertoire on CD4+CD28null T cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine/Rheumatology and Immunology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Killer Ig-like receptors (KIRs) are expressed on CD4(+)CD28(null) T cells, a highly oligoclonal subset of T cells that is expanded in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. It is unclear at what stage of development these T cells acquire KIR expression. To determine whether KIR expression is a consequence of clonal expansion and replicative senescence, multiple CD4(+)CD28(null) T cell clones expressing the in vivo dominant TCR beta-chain sequences were identified in three patients and analyzed for their KIR gene expression pattern. Based on sharing of TCR sequences, the clones were grouped into five clone families. The repertoire of KIRs was diverse, even within each clone family; however, the gene expression was not random. Three particular receptors, KIR2DS2, KIR2DL2, and KIR3DL2, had significant differences in gene expression frequencies between the clone families. These data suggest that KIRs are successively acquired after TCR rearrangement, with each clone family developing a dominant expression pattern. The patterns did not segregate with the individual from whom the clones were derived, indicating that peripheral selection in the host environment was not a major shaping force. Several models were examined using a computer algorithm that was designed to simulate the expression of KIRs at various times during T cell proliferation. The computer simulations favored a model in which KIR gene expression is inducible for a limited time during the initial stages of clonal expansion.

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