Differential thymus dependence of rat CD8 isoform expression.
Torres-Nagel N., Kraus E., Brown MH., Tiefenthaler G., Mitnacht R., Williams AF., Hünig T.
Expression of the rat CD8 molecule was studied using five novel monoclonal antibodies (mAb), four of which are specific for the V-like domain of CD8 alpha, whereas one reacts either with the beta chain or with a determinant only expressed on the CD8 alpha/beta heterodimer. mAb to both chains effectively blocked purified lymph node CD8 T cells in mixed lymphocyte reaction and in cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Flow cytometric analysis showed that CD8 T cells from lymph nodes or spleen of normal rats almost exclusively express the alpha/beta isoform, regardless of the T cell receptor isotype (alpha/beta or gamma/delta). In contrast, natural killer (NK) cells carry only CD8 alpha chains. This CD8 alpha + beta - phenotype was also prominent among CD8 T cells from athymic rats and from intestinal epithelium of normal rats. CD8 alpha homodimers can also be expressed as a result of activation, as shown by analysis of CD4 CD8 double-positive T cells obtained from highly purified lymph node CD4 T cells by in vitrok stimulation. Such CD4+CD8 alpha + beta - cells also represent a major subset among adult intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL), suggesting local activation. Taken together, the difference in CD8 isoform expression among T cells from athymic rats, NK cells, and gut IEL versus CD8 T cells from peripheral lymphatic organs of euthymic animals suggests that like in mice, expression of the CD8 heterodimer is more dependent on intrathymic maturation than that of the homodimer. Since the more stringent thymus dependence of CD8 alpha + beta + T cells may be due to a requirement for thymic selection on self major histocompatibility complex class I antigens, the virtually exclusive CD8 alpha + beta + phenotype of peripheral rat gamma/delta T cells could mean that antigen recognition by this subset is also restricted by MHC class I molecules.