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Int J Clin Lab Res. 1996;26(4):255-61.

Functional characteristics of cord blood T lymphocytes after lectin and anti-CD3 stimulation. Differences in the way T cells express activation molecules and proliferate.

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Department of Geriatrics, Gerontology and Metabolic Diseases (Allergology and Immunology Service), 2nd University of Naples, Italy.


Newborns are more susceptible than adults to infections, which suggests a relative immaturity of the immune system early after birth. Cord blood T cells differ significantly both in surface phenotype and function from adult T cells. We examined the proliferation and expression of activation molecules by lymphocytes isolated from umbilical cord blood or peripheral blood of adults. The lymphocytes were cultured for 5 days in the presence of phytohemagglutinin, concanavalin A, or anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody. Cord blood T cells expressed the CD45RA molecule, while a low proportion expressed the RO isoform, a marker of primed or activated lymphocytes. Furthermore, more than 95% of neonatal lymphocytes bear the CD38 molecule, but do not express the CD57 molecule. After stimulation by phytohemagglutinin or concanavalin A, the lymphocytes from newborns were activated and proliferated as efficiently as adult T cells. Anti-CD3 did not cause neonatal lymphocytes to proliferate, but these cells expressed activation molecules, such as HLA-DR antigens and the receptor for interleukin-2 and transferrin. The relevance of these findings to tolerance induction in immature cord blood T cells is discussed.

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