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Blood. 2002 Nov 1;100(9):3253-60.

Role of 4-1BB (CD137) in the functional activation of cord blood CD28(-)CD8(+) T cells.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Walther Oncology Center, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202-5254, USA.


The CD28(-) subset of CD8(+) T cells is associated with cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) effector function. We investigated a potential role for 4-1BB, a costimulatory molecule structurally related to members of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor family, in the generation and functional activation of CD28(-) CTLs by using human cord blood (CB) cells composed exclusively of naive CD8(+) T cells with few or no CD28(-) CTLs. The 4-1BB was induced preferentially on the CB CD28(-)CD8(+) T cells when CD28 down-regulation was induced by interleukin 15 (IL-15) and IL-12 stimulation. Anti-4-1BB costimulation induced dramatic phenotypic changes in the CD28(-) CTLs, including restoration of CD28 expression as well as that of memory markers such as CD45RO and CC chemokine receptor 6 (CCR6). Anti-4-1BB costimulation also promoted long-term survival of CD28(-) CTLs, which were sensitive to activation-induced cell death upon anti-CD3 stimulation. The memory-type CD28(+) CTLs induced by anti-4-1BB costimulation acquired a greatly enhanced content of granzyme B, a cytolytic mediator, and enhanced cytotoxic activity as compared with CD28(-) CTLs. Strong cytotoxicity of memory-type CTLs to a 4-1BB ligand-expressing Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-transformed B-cell line was almost completely abrogated by 4-1BB-Fc, a soluble form of 4-1BB, suggesting involvement of 4-1BB in cytolytic processes. Taken all together, our results suggest that 4-1BB plays a role in the differentiation of effector memory CTLs.

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