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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1993 Oct 29;342(1299):25-34.

CD4 function in thymocyte differentiation and T cell activation.

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Department of Microbiology, University of California at San Francisco 94143-0414.


The ectodomains of the T cell surface glycoproteins CD4 and CD8 bind to membrane-proximal domains of MHC class II and class I molecules, respectively, while both cytoplasmic domains interact with the protein tyrosine kinase (PTK) p56lck (lck) through a shared cysteine-containing motif. Function of CD4 and CD8 requires their binding to the same MHC molecule as that recognized by the T cell antigen receptor (TCR). In vitro studies indicate that CD4-associated lck functions even in the absence of kinase activity. In vivo experiments show that, whereas helper T cell development is impaired in CD4-deficient mice, high level expression of a transgenic CD4 that cannot bind lck rescues development of this T cell subset. These studies suggest that CD4 is an adhesion molecule whose localization is regulated through protein-protein interactions of the associated PTK and whose function is to increase the stability of the TCR signalling complex by binding to the relevant MHC. The function of CD4 in development has been further studied in the context of how double positive (CD4+CD8+) thymocytes mature into either CD4+ T cells with helper function and TCR specificity for class II or into CD8+ T cells with cytotoxic function and specificity for class I. Studies using CD4-transgenic mice indicate that development of single positive T cells involves stochastic downregulation of either CD4 or CD8, coupled to activation of a cytotoxic or helper program, respectively, and subsequent selection based on the ability of the TCR and remaining co-receptor to engage the same MHC molecule.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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