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Eur J Immunol. 1989 Jun;19(6):1037-44.

CD8+CD11b+ peripheral blood T lymphocytes contain lymphokine-activated killer cell precursors.

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Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro, Genova, Italy.


CD3+CD8+ cells, purified from peripheral blood T cells by depletion of CD4+ lymphocytes, were tested for their cytotoxic activity against K-562 or HL-60 cells. Freshly prepared cells had no cytotoxic function, but upon exposure to recombinant interleukin 2 (rIL2) in vitro they acquired a lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) activity. Fractionation of CD3+CD8+ cells into CD11b+ and CD11b- cells demonstrated that all the cells with the potential of developing LAK cell functions were within the CD8+CD11b+ subset. These cells lacked natural killer cell markers such as CD16 or NKH1, but a proportion of them stained for Leu-7. Furthermore, they expressed the alpha/beta chains, but not the gamma/delta chains, of the T cell receptor, as could be determined by staining with the appropriate monoclonal antibodies. CD8+CD11b+ cells had a large granular lymphocyte morphology, as shown by both cytochemical and electron microscopy analyses. They proliferated in response to IL2 in vitro and developed cytotoxic functions against a number of natural killer resistant targets. Their response to phytohemagglutinin or pokeweed mitogen was very weak or absent. By contrast, CD8+CD11b- cells failed to generate LAK cells in response to rIL2, did not show a large granular lymphocyte morphology, but responded vigorously to phytohemagglutinin or pokeweed mitogen. Purified CD8+CD11b+ cells were cloned by limiting dilution in the presence of rIL2. The observed cloning efficiency of 19 +/- 0.3% indicates that a fraction of the cells only could respond to IL2. Furthermore, only 50% of the clones obtained had a LAK cell function. These data show that CD8+CD11b+ cells represent a heterogeneous cell population. Nevertheless this cell subset probably represents the major source of LAK cell progenitors within the circulating T cells.

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