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J Exp Med. 2003 Apr 21;197(8):955-66.

Topological requirements and signaling properties of T cell-activating, anti-CD28 antibody superagonists.

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  • 1Institute for Virology and Immunobiology, University of Würzburg, Versbacher Str. 7, D-97078 Würzburg, Germany.


Full activation of naive T cells requires both engagement of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR; signal 1) and costimulatory signaling by CD28 (signal 2). We previously identified two types of rat CD28-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs): "conventional," TCR signaling-dependent costimulatory mAbs and "superagonistic" mAbs capable of inducing the full activation of primary resting T cells in the absence of TCR ligation both in vitro and in vivo. Using chimeric rat/mouse CD28 molecules, we show that the superagonists bind exclusively to the laterally exposed C"D loop of the immunoglobulin-like domain of CD28 whereas conventional, costimulatory mAbs recognize an epitope close to the binding site for the natural CD80/CD86 ligands. Unexpectedly, the C"D loop reactivity of a panel of new antibodies raised against human CD28 could be predicted solely on the basis of their superagonistic properties. Moreover, mouse CD28 molecules engineered to express the rat or human C"D loop sequences activated T cell hybridomas without TCR ligation when cross-linked by superagonistic mAbs. Finally, biochemical analysis revealed that superagonistic CD28 signaling activates the nuclear factor kappaB pathway without inducing phosphorylation of either TCRzeta or ZAP70. Our findings indicate that the topologically constrained interactions of anti-CD28 superagonists bypass the requirement for signal 1 in T cell activation. Antibodies with this property may prove useful for the development of T cell stimulatory drugs.

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