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J Immunol. 1991 Dec 1;147(11):3736-44.

Novel function for intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes. Murine CD3+, gamma/delta TCR+ T cells produce IFN-gamma and IL-5.

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Department of Oral Biology, University of Alabama, Birmingham 35294.


Intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) from mice are greater than 80% CD3+ T cells and could be separated into four subsets according to expression of CD4 and CD8. In our studies designed to assess the functions of IEL, namely, cytokine production, it was important to initially characterize the various subsets of T cells that reside in IEL. The major subset was CD4-, CD8+ (75% of CD3+ T cells), which contained approximately 45 to 65% gamma/delta TCR+ and 35 to 45% alpha/beta TCR+ T cells. Approximately 7.5% of IEL T cells were CD4-, CD8- (double negative) and gamma/delta+ population. On the other hand, CD4+, CD8+ (double positive) and CD4+, CD8- fractions represented 10% and 7.5% of CD3+ T cells, respectively, which were all alpha/beta TCR+. Inasmuch as CD3+, CD4-, CD8+ T cells are a major subset of IEL which contain both gamma/delta TCR or alpha/beta TCR-bearing cells, the present study was focused on the capability of this subset of IEL T cells to produce the cytokines IFN-gamma and IL-5. Both gamma/delta TCR+ and alpha/beta TCR+ IEL spontaneously produced IFN-gamma and IL-5, although higher frequencies of cytokine spot-forming cells were associated with the alpha/beta TCR+ subset. Approximately 30% of CD8+, gamma/delta TCR+ cells produced both cytokines, whereas approximately 90% of alpha/beta TCR+ T cells produced either IFN-gamma or IL-5. Both gamma/delta TCR+ and alpha/beta TCR+ IEL possessed large quantities of cytokine-specific mRNA, clearly showing that these IEL were programmed for cytokine production. When IEL were activated with anti-gamma/delta or anti-CD8 antibodies, higher numbers of IFN-gamma and IL-5 spot-forming cells were noted. The present study has provided direct evidence that a major function of IEL involves cytokine production, and this is the first evidence that gamma/delta TCR+ cells in IEL possess the capability of producing both IL-5 and IFN-gamma.

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