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Eur J Immunol. 2010 Feb;40(2):378-87. doi: 10.1002/eji.200939399.

Activating NK-cell receptors co-stimulate CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, Center for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Stockholm, Sweden.


Effector T-cell responses can be modulated by competing positive or negative signals transduced by NK-cell receptors (NKR). In the CD4(+) T-cell population, the expression of NKR is primarily found in the CD4(+)CD28(-) T-cell subset, also known as CD28(null) T cells. These T cells are frequently found in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other inflammatory disorders, suggesting that signaling through NKR may play a role in the autoimmune reaction. Here we aimed to dissect the phenotype and function of NKR-expressing CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells in patients with RA. By analyzing a broad array of NKR on CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells we found a significant expression of the co-activating receptors 2B4 (CD244), DNAM-1 (CD226), and CRACC. Pair-wise ligations of 2B4 with DNAM-1 and/or NKG2D lead to increased effector functions of primary CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells to suboptimal levels of anti-CD3 stimulation. Using multi-parameter flow cytometry, we demonstrate that such co-ligation led to an increased magnitude in overall responsiveness without changing qualitative aspects of the response. Altogether these results demonstrate a pattern of additive effects in NKR-mediated functional modulation of CD4(+)CD28(-) T cells in RA. This may have consequences for the inflammatory responses imposed by these cells, thus influencing disease manifestations.

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