We observed that certain E-receptor antibodies (CD2 antibodies) can induce proliferation of resting human T cells in the presence of PMA, while other CD2 antibodies fail to have such an effect. The same CD2 antibodies that were mitogenic in the presence of PMA (9.6, X11, VIT13), but not the nonreactive ones, were also able to induce T cell proliferation via the so-called alternative pathway of T cell activation, i.e., when added pairwise in certain combinations to T cells in the absence of PMA. While the simultaneous addition of two comitogenic CD2 antibodies (9.6 or X11 plus VIT13) or the addition of a single nonmitogenic CD3 antibody (VIT3) led to a clearcut elevation of intracellular Ca++ levels, no such effect could be observed after the addition of one CD2 antibody alone. Even in the presence of PMA, one comitogenic CD2 antibody alone was unable to trigger a significant Ca++ response, although this combination induced a proliferative response. These data indicate that, distinguishable by their influence on free cytoplasmic Ca++, there are two different mechanisms of T cell activation via CD2. While simultaneous triggering with two antibodies leads to cell proliferation preceded by an increase of Ca++ levels, stimulation with one antibody plus PMA results in proliferation without a measurable early Ca++ response. We conclude that T cells treated by certain CD2 antibodies alone already recognize an activation signal probably unrelated to Ca++ homeostasis, a signal that can further be developed by PMA to result in a completely developed proliferative response.

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