Human CD8 has been thought to consist of disulfide-linked homodimers and homomultimers of a single polypeptide chain homologous to mouse and rat CD8 alpha. In contrast, mouse and rat CD8 are composed of disulfide-linked heterodimers of alpha and beta chains. We have now isolated and sequenced cDNA clones encoding a human homologue of mouse and rat CD8 beta. One such clone was inserted into an expression vector and its encoded product was shown to be expressed on the cell surface after cotransfection into L cells with the human CD8 alpha gene. A second form of human CD8 beta cDNA encoding a protein with an altered cytoplasmic tail was similarly transfected, but its product could not be demonstrated on the cell surface. CD8 beta was further shown to be expressed on the surface of almost all CD8+ human peripheral blood T cells. These data provide the first evidence that human CD8 is a heterodimeric protein.

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