The CD2 antigen is the target for an "alternative" T cell activation pathway. Numerous studies have demonstrated that pairs of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) directed toward two different epitopes are required for activation of T cell receptor (TCR)-alpha/beta + T cells via CD2. We have now explored the activation of human TCR-gamma/delta + T cell clones by a panel of anti-CD2 mAbs directed against the sheep erythrocyte-binding (T11.1) epitope of CD2. Seven of seven gamma/delta + clones expressing different molecular forms of the TCR-gamma/delta responded to stimulation by a single anti-CD2 mAb (OKT11, 9E8, BW0110, M-T910) with IL-2 secretion and/or proliferation. Immobilization of anti-CD2 mAbs in microculture plates was essential for activation of gamma/delta + clones, which occurred in the absence of feeder cells. In addition to interleukin 2 (IL-2) production and proliferation, anti-CD2 mAbs also triggered cytotoxic effector activity in gamma/delta + clones as measured against FcR+ P815 target cells. In contrast to gamma/delta + clones (but in line with established data), none of five CD4+ or CD8+ TCR-alpha/beta + clones were activated by any of the tested individual anti-CD2 mAbs. Taken together, our results reveal a striking difference between cloned gamma/delta + and alpha/beta + T cells in that gamma/delta + T cells are selectively activated by a single anti-CD2 (T11.1) mAb, without need for the simultaneous signal of a second anti-CD2 mAb directed against another (T11.2 or T11.3) CD2 epitope.

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