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Immunology. 1997 Aug;91(4):541-7.

Massive production of Th2 cytokines by human CD4+ effector T cells transiently expressing the natural killer cell marker CD57/HNK1.

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Department of Asthma/Allergy Research, Ciba-Geigy Ltd, Basel, Switzerland.


We have reported previously that uncommitted human CD4+ CD45RO- T cells default to the T-helper type 1 (Th1) pathway, if they are costimulated by anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28 monoclonal antibodies (mAb). In contrast, 5% of the uncommitted T cells differentiate into Th2 cells, if they are stimulated by anti-CD28 plus interleukin-2 (IL-2) in the absence of T-cell receptor (TCR) signals. The anti-CD28/IL-2-induced proliferation (and the resulting Th2 commitment) was not affected by neutralizing anti-IL-4 mAb, suggesting a non-conventional IL-4-independent Th2 differentiation pathway. Here we report that the respective CD4+ Th2 cells (but not the Th1 cells) coexpressed the natural killer (NK) cell marker HNK1/CD57. Expression of CD57 on Th2 cells required CD28 stimulation, and was suppressed by CD3/TCR signals. However, Th2 effector cells displayed a TCR V beta-chain usage comparable to that of committed Th1 cells (with V beta 8 dominating). Our data suggest that expression of CD57 on human CD4 T cells may be associated with defined stages of Th2 cell activation/differentiation, and may not necessarily characterize a separate T-cell lineage. The induction of cytokine production and B-cell helper function in both Th1 and Th2 populations required CD3/TCR signalling in costimulation with anti-CD28 or IL-2. Importantly, anti-CD28/IL-2-primed Th2 cells readily secreted IL-4 and induced IgE production by surface IgE- B cells in response to the first TCR signal and independent of previous contact with IL-4. Therefore, CD4+ CD57+ T cells responded comparably to murine CD4+ NK1.1+ T cells, which are critical for the development of Th2/IgE immune responses in vivo. The possible role of human CD4+ CD57/HNK1+ Th2-like cells in cancer, infection and allergy is discussed.

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