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Immunology. 1996 Feb;87(2):242-9.

Regulation of T-cell activation in the lung: isolated lung T cells exhibit surface phenotypic characteristics of recent activation including down-modulated T-cell receptors, but are locked into the G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle.

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Institute for Child Health Research, West Perth, Australia.


Peripheral lung tissue contains large numbers of T cells, strategically located for immune surveillance at the blood-air interface. Given the intensity of antigenic exposure at this site, it is clear that local T-cell activation events require strict control, in order to maintain tissue homeostasis. How this control is achieved in this unique tissue microenvironment is unknown, and the present study sought to elucidate the process via detailed analysis of the surface phenotypic characteristics of freshly isolated lung T cells. We report below that these cells display typical characteristic of 'postactivation', notably elevated basal Ca2+ concentrations, down-modulated T-cell receptors, expression of Ia and 'late' activation antigens and concomitant CD4/CD8. However, levels of interleukin-2 receptor and CD2 expression were below those expected of 'activated' T-cell populations, and virtually all of the cells were found to be in the G0/G1 phases of the cell cycle. These properties bear a remarkable similarity to those of T cells activated in the presence of endogenous tissue (alveolar) macrophages from the lung (see accompanying paper). We hypothesize that they reflect the in vivo operation of an endogenous macrophage-mediated T-cell anergy-induction process, the function of which is to limit the local clonal expansion of T cells in peripheral lung tissue after in situ activation.

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