Journal of Clinical Immunology

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Isoforms of the CD45 common leukocyte antigen family: Markers for human T-cell differentiation

  • Loran T. Clement
Special Article


The diverse host defense and immunoregulatory functions of human T cells are performed by phenotypically heterogeneous subpopulations. Among the membrane antigens that are differentially expressed by reciprocal human T-cell subsets are the CD45RA and CD45RO isoforms of the common leukocyte antigen family, which have been hypothesized to identify “naive” and “memory” T cells, respectively. The CD45RA antigen is first expressed by T-lineage cells relatively late during their intrathymic maturation and continues to be expressed by most T cells in the immunologically naive neonate. With increasing age and antigenic exposure, however, CD45RA-/RO+ cells become more prevalent in the circulation and comprise the majority of cells in tissues. Analyses of the functional capabilities of CD4+CD45RA+ and CD4+CD45RO+ cells have shown that proliferative responses to “memory” recall antigens or the ability to provide help for antibody production are functions uniquely performed by CD4+CD45RA-/RO+ cells. The major immunoregulatory functions described for CD4+CD45RA+ cells involve suppression of immune responses, either directly or via the induction of suppressor activity by CD8+ cells. Two general models of differentiation have been proposed to describe the lineal relationship of these T-cell subsets. Although these subsets could represent mature, phenotypically and functionally stable progeny arising from separate differentiation pathways, there is considerable experimental support for the hypothesis that CD45RA-/RO+ cells are “memory” cells that derive from “naive” or “virgin” CD45RA+/RO-precursors via an activation-dependent postthymic differentiation pathway. Altered frequencies of CD45RA+ and CD45RO+ T cells have been observed in a variety of different clinical conditions, particularly diseases manifesting altered immune function. These findings have contributed new information concerning the physiological events regulating thein vivo generation of these T-cell subsets. In addition, they may provide clues to the pathogenetic processes associated with certain diseases.

Key words

Lymphocyte differentiation T-cell subpopulations CD45 isoforms common leukocyte antigens 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Loran T. Clement
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUCLA School of MedicineLos Angeles

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