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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Nov;87(21):8267-71.

Extracellular ATP in T-lymphocyte activation: possible role in effector functions.

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.

Erratum in

  • Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1991 Aug 1;88(15):6899.


We hypothesized that cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL) may utilize extracellular ATP (ATPo) during the effector phase of the CTL-target cell interactions and that CTL could be the source of ATPo. It is demonstrated here that incubation of CTL with activating ligands [Con A or monoclonal antibody (mAb) to the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR)] results in the extracellular Ca2(+)-independent accumulation of the ATPo. The addition of the ATP-degrading enzymes into the mixture of CTL and target cells results in a strong inhibition of the CTL-mediated, TCR-triggered lethal-hit delivery to the target cell. In a parallel control experiment, the employed enzymes did not affect target cell-induced, TCR-triggered exocytosis of granules from CTL. Thus, the removal of ATPo with enzymes does not interfere with the activation of CTL by the target cell but does block lytic events. Cloned helper T lymphocytes also accumulate ATPo after incubation with anti-TCR mAb or Con A, suggesting the possibility that ATPo, which acts in concert with ectoprotein kinases and/or purinergic receptors, may be of general use as a messenger in cellular interactions of T lymphocytes.

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