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Immunology. 1996 Sep;89(1):76-83.

Phenotypic classification of porcine lymphocyte subpopulations in blood and lymphoid tissues.

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Immunology Division, BBSRC Institute for Animal Health, Pirbright, Survey, UK.


The pig is a useful model for the heterogeneity of the mammalian immune system and has also recently received attention as a possible source of organs for human transplantation. Here we report a detailed analysis of porcine lymphocyte phenotypes. Peripheral blood alpha beta T cells consisted of four subsets (CD4+8-, CD4+8lo, CD4-8lo and CD4-8hi) and gamma delta T cells of three (CD2-4-8-, CD2+4-8lo and CD2+4-8-). There were in addition, a large proportion of non-T-non-B lymphocytes with CD2+3-4-8lo surface immunoglobulin-negative phenotype containing natural killer (NK) activity. A striking observation was the relatively low frequency of alpha beta T cells in the blood of young pigs. Similar phenotypes were also identified in the cells from peripheral lymphoid tissues, though the proportions of the gamma delta T cells and the non-T-non-B lymphocytes in the lymph nodes and tonsil were much lower and the majority of the gamma delta T cells in the lymphoid tissues bore CD2 and or CD8. In thymus, the small thymocytes were predominantly CD3-4+8+ while the mature large thymocytes displayed phenotypes similar to those of peripheral T cells. Thus this work has directly defined porcine alpha beta and gamma delta T cells demonstrated the T-cell nature of the unique CD4+8+ subset of peripheral lymphocytes, revealed the high heterogeneity of the CD8+ cells, and established the phenotype of NK cells. The functional properties of these defined porcine lymphocyte subsets can now be experimentally determined in health and disease.

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