It is generally believed that CD2 (T11, sheep erythrocyte receptor) is expressed on all human T cells. In the present study we have identified and characterized a minor subset of CD2- CD3/TCR alpha/beta+ T cells in the peripheral blood of healthy individuals. CD2-CD3+ T cells were enriched in PBMC depleted of plastic-adherent macrophages, E-rosetting (i.e., CD2+) T cells and surface Ig+ B cells. CD2-CD3+ T cells accounted for 0.1-0.8% of PBMC in six individuals. IL-2-dependent long-term clones of CD2-CD3+ T cells neither reacted with a panel of anti-CD2 mAbs nor expressed detectable levels of CD2 mRNA by Northern blot analysis. These clones, however, expressed a full-length TCR C beta mRNA and reacted with mAbs against TCR-alpha/beta, CD3, and CD4, and thus were mature T cells. CD2-CD3/TCR+ T cell clones could be triggered into proliferation, IL-2 production, and cytotoxic effector activity by anti-CD3 and anti-TCR mAbs. We conclude that (a) a minor subset of CD2-, CD3/TCR-alpha/beta+ T cells is present in normal peripheral blood; and (b) expression of CD2 at the level of protein and/or mRNA is not required for T cell signaling via the CD3/TCR molecular complex.

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