Subpopulations of Cytotoxic T Lymphocytes with Different Cytotoxic Mechanisms

  • David W. Lancki
  • Maureen McKisic
  • Frank W. Fitch


Subpopulations of T lymphocytes have been identified based on (1) expression of CD4 or CD8 accessory molecules on the cell surface [CD4+ cells generally recognize antigen (Ag) presented in the context of class II major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, while CD8+ cells generally recognize Ag presented in the context of class I MHC molecules], (2) the structure of their T-cell receptor (TCR) (α/β versus γ/δ), (3) the array of lymphokines that the cells produce, and (4) functional characteristics. T-cell functions in heterogeneous populations of T cells appeared to be correlated with the expression of CD4 or CD8 molecules on the T-cell surface. Thus, T-cell-mediated cytotoxicity was associated with CD8+ T cells, while T-cell-mediated helper functions appear to reside primarily in the CD4+ T cells. However, it is now generally accepted that cytotoxic activity is not restricted to CD8+ T cells. The lytic activity of cells bearing the γ/δ TCR is well established. The extent of expression of cytotoxicity among the members of CD4+ subsets is still controversial. In this review, we summarize recent observations regarding the expression of cytotoxic activity among T-cell subsets bearing CD4 molecules. In addition, we explore the growing body of evidence indicating that cytotoxic activity expressed by lymphocytes within different T-cell subpopulations may be accomplished through distinct and independent mechanisms.


Major Histocompatibility Complex Major Histocompatibility Complex Molecule Serine Esterase Percent Specific Lysis Induce Target Cell 
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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Boston 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Lancki
  • Maureen McKisic
  • Frank W. Fitch

There are no affiliations available

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