Downregulation of L3T4+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes by interleukin-2

Science  16 Oct 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4825, pp. 344-347
DOI: 10.1126/science.2443976


Proliferation of activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) that recognize foreign histocompatibility antigens is induced by interleukin-2, a potent immunoregulatory molecule originally described as T cell growth factor. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is widely used to isolate and induce clonal expansion of CTLs for functional studies in vitro and in vivo. However, in studies with CTLs specific for class I and class II histocompatibility antigens, IL-2 rapidly downregulated the lytic activity of some class II-specific CTLs in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Lytic activity of L3T4+ CTLs specific for the murine class II antigen I-Ek was repeatedly up- and downregulated in vitro by alternate exposure to specific (alloantigen) and nonspecific (recombinant IL-2) signals, respectively. These results demonstrate that some CTLs modulate their functional property (cytolysis) while undergoing IL-2-driven cell proliferation without loss of antigen specificity or ability to revert to a lytic phenotype.