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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Apr 25;92(9):4036-40.

Differential activation of proliferation and cytotoxicity in human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I Tax-specific CD8 T cells by an altered peptide ligand.

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Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


Human T-cell leukemia virus type I (HTLV-I) gives rise to a neurologic disease known as HTLV-I-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). Although the pathogenesis of the disease is unknown, the presence of a remarkably high frequency of Tax-specific, cytotoxic CD8 T cells may suggest a role of these cells in the development of HAM/TSP. Antigen-mediated signaling in a CD8 T-cell clone specific for the Tax(11-19) peptide of HTLV-I was studied using analog peptides substituted in their T-cell receptor contact residues defined by x-ray crystallographic data of the Tax(11-19) peptide in the groove of HLA-A2. CD8 T-cell stimulation with the wild-type peptide antigen led to activation of p56lck kinase activity, interleukin 2 secretion, cytotoxicity, and clonal expansion. A Tax analog peptide with an alanine substitution of the T-cell receptor contact residue tyrosine-15 induced T-cell-mediated cytolysis without activation of interleukin 2 secretion or proliferation. Induction of p56lck kinase activity correlated with T-cell-mediated cytotoxicity, whereas interleukin 2 secretion correlated with [3H]thymidine incorporation and proliferation. Moreover, Tax peptide analogs that activated the tyrosine kinase activity of p56lck could induce unresponsiveness to secondary stimulation with the wild-type peptide. These observations show that a single amino acid substitution in a T-cell receptor contact residue of Tax can differentially signal CD8 T cells and further demonstrate that primary activation has functional consequences for the secondary response of at least some Tax-specific CD8 T cells to HTLV-I-infected target cells.

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