With human T cells activated by 12-o-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) as immunogen, an IgG2a mAb, early activation antigen 1 (EA 1), was generated against a 60-kD protein with disulfide-linked 28-kD and 32-kD subunits. Both subunits were phosphorylated. The antigen, EA 1, was readily detected on approximately 60% of isolated and cryopreserved thymocytes, as determined by indirect immunofluorescence. A low level of EA 1 expression was detectable on 6-7% of blood lymphocytes. TPA-activated T cells expressed EA 1 as early as 30 min after activation. By 1 h, 85-90% of the T cells stained with mAb EA 1. By 3-4 h, the expression of EA 1 was detected in greater than 95% of the T cells. Although the percentages of EA 1+ T cells did not change, the intensity of staining increased slightly. After 18-24 h, both the percentage of EA 1+ cells and the intensity of staining decreased gradually. TPA-induced EA 1 expression was independent of monocytes. EA 1 expression was slightly delayed in T cells that were isolated without the rosette selection and treated with TPA. Nevertheless, greater than 85% of these T cells expressed EA 1 within 1 h, and the maximal number of EA 1+ T cells was also detected at 3-4 h. In T cell populations with 1-2% monocytes, about 50-90% of the PHA- or Con A-activated T cells expressed EA 1 with a slower kinetics. EA 1 expression preceded that of IL-2-R in these activation processes. Similarly, T cells activated by soluble antigens (tetanus toxoid and PPD) and alloantigens in MLR also expressed EA 1 after a longer incubation. Approximately 20% of the T cells stained for EA 1 at day 6. EA 1 expression was not limited to activated T cells. B cells activated by TPA or anti-IgM antibody plus B cell growth factor expressed EA 1. The kinetics of EA 1 expression was markedly slower and the staining was less intense. Repeated attempts to detect EA 1 on resting and TPA-activated monocytes and granulocytes have not been successful. However, the detection of EA 1 in nonlymphoid cell lines would indicate that EA 1 may have a broader cell distribution. EA 1 expression was due to de novo synthesis, as the induction of EA 1 was blocked by cycloheximide and actinomycin D.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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