gamma/delta T cells have recently been described in association with a number of disorders, including autoimmune diseases. gamma/delta T cells are thought to play a cytotoxic role, but their mechanism of action is not known. Several granule mediators of cytotoxicity, including a pore-forming protein (perforin), and a family of serine esterases, have been isolated from cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL), lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. We demonstrate here that gamma/delta T cells also express these mediators. Northern blots show that gamma/delta T cells express perforin, serine esterase 1 (SE 1), and SE 2. Three polyclonal antisera - raised against murine perforin, a peptide composed of amino acids 1-34 of human perforin, and human peforin expressed in bacteria - all reacted with a 70-kD protein in gamma/delta T cells on Western blots. Immunostaining with antiperforin antisera shows that primary gamma/delta T cells also contain perforin. Electron microscopy reveals that the granules of gamma/delta T cells resemble those of CTL, LAK, and NK cells. Gamma/delta T cells also resemble LAK cells in possessing inclusion bodies in their nuclei. These results imply that gamma/delta T cells resemble other cytolytic lymphocytes in their mechanism of action.

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