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EMBO J. 1987 Aug;6(8):2223-32.

Sequential activation and lethal hit measured by [Ca2+]i in individual cytolytic T cells and targets.

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Department of Physiology and Anatomy, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


Changes in cytosolic free calcium ([Ca2+]i) have been continuously imaged during the interaction of the H-2Kb specific cytotoxic T cell lymphocyte (CTL) BM 3.3, with either the H-2Kb EL4.BU or the H-2Kk RDM4 cell lines. Activation of the CTLs by EL4.BU raises [Ca2+]i to several hundred nanomolar in the CTL. Frequently [Ca2+]i is preferentially elevated in the region of the CTL furthest from the site of target contact. These responses require external Ca2+ suggesting that they are generated by the plasma membrane and not internal stores. Inappropriate targets such as RDM4 evoke no changes in [Ca2+]i. Activation of the BM 3.3 CTL is followed by increases of [Ca2+]i to several micromolar or higher in the EL4.BU targets. This massive increase can be mimicked by direct application of cytolytic granules isolated from rat natural killer cells. The increase in plasma membrane permeability is ion-specific since external Mn2+ can also readily enter target cells that have been 'hit', as evidenced by the rapid selective quenching of fura-2 in those targets. The flood of Ca2+ into the target cell is followed by a leakage of the trapped fura-2. Since both processes continue after the CTL has disengaged, they provide a useful assay for the lethal hit. Furthermore, this technique can be used to follow complete cycles of CTL activation and lethal hit delivery, which under some circumstances can be as rapid as 6 min per cycle.

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