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Biophys J. 1995 Mar;68(3):1170-6.

Cross-linking of CD4 in a TCR/CD3-juxtaposed inhibitory state: a pFRET study.

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Department of Biophysics, University Medical School of Debrecen, Hungary.


Instances when T cell activation via the T cell receptor/CD3 complex is suppressed by anti-CD4 Abs are generally attributed either to the topological separation of CD4-p56lck from CD3, or their improper apposition. Photobleaching fluorescence resonance energy transfer measurements permitted direct analysis of these alternatives on human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Distinction between changes of relative antigen densities or positioning was made possible by simultaneously recording donor and acceptor fluorescence in the energy transfer experiment performed on homogeneous populations of flow-sorted cells. We show here that CD4 stays in the molecular vicinity of CD3, while anti-CD3 stimulation is suppressed by anti-CD4 or cross-linked HIV gp120. Our data suggest that cross-linking of CD4 through particular epitopes is capable of inhibiting activation driven by Abs binding to specific sites on CD3 without major topological sequestration of the Ags, in such a way that additional positive signals will also be affected. Thus, these and other related cases of negative signaling via CD4 may be interpreted in terms of functional uncoupling rather than a wide physical separation of CD4 from the T cell receptor-CD3 complex.

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