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Cytolytic T lymphocytes: an overview of their characteristics


Cloned T cells have been useful for assessing the lytic potential of distinct T cell subsets and for determining the relative contribution of different effector mechanism involved in the lytic process. Alloreactive CD8+ murine T cell clones and cloned murine CD4+ TH1 and TH2 T cells reactive with nominal antigen (ovalbumin) lysed nucleated target cells bearing antigen or coated with anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody in a short term51Cr-release assay. These clones were also evaluated for their ability to lyse efficiently sheep erythrocyte (SRBC) target cells coated with anti-CD3 mAb by a mechanism (presumably involving membrane damage) that does not involve nuclear degradation. Three patterns of lysis were observed: CD8+ and some CD4+ TH2 effector cells lysed efficiently nucleated target cells and anucleated SRBC coated with anti-CD3 mAb. However, CD4+ TH1 (and a few TH2) T cells which lysed nucleated target cells bearing antigen or coated with anti-CD3 mAb didnotlyse efficiently the SRBC coated with anti-CD3 mAb. One CD4 bearing TH2 cell failed to lyse efficiently either nucleated target cells or anucleated SRBC coated with anti-CD3 mAb. These results indicate that both TH1 and TH2 clones have lytic capabilities. Furthermore, they suggest that some but not all TH2 murine T cell clones have lytic characteristics similar to those of conventional CD8+ CTL. However, it is not certain how these patterns of lysis of target cellsin vitro relates to the capacity of CTL to lyse such target cellsin vivo.

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antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity


antigen presenting cell


cytotoxic T lymphocyte


Fc receptor for IgG


helper T lymphocyte


major histocompatibility complex


mixed lymphocyte reaction


Lymphocyte Function antigen-1




pore-forming protein


sheep red blood cell


T cell receptor for antigen




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Lancki, D.W., Fitch, F.W. Cytolytic T lymphocytes: an overview of their characteristics. Biotherapy 5, 71–81 (1992).

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Key words

  • Anti-TCR mAb
  • Cytotoxic T lymphocytes
  • mAb coated target cells
  • mechanisms of lysis
  • T cell clones