To search for possible ligands of CD2 distinct from CD58 (lymphocyte function-associated antigen 3), we have produced a soluble pentameric CD2-immunoglobulin (Ig) fusion protein (spCD2) linking the 182-amino acid human CD2 extracellular segment with CH2-CH3-CH4 domains of human IgM heavy chain, thus enhancing the micromolar affinity of the CD2 monomer through multimeric interaction. Using quantitative immunofluorescence and standard stringency wash conditions, we observed that the binding of spCD2 to human B lymphoblastoid JY cells and red blood cells is virtually inhibited by anti-CD58 TS2/9 monoclonal antibody, even though these cells express levels of CD48 and CD59 comparable to CD58. Consistent with these results, spCD2 did not show any binding to Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells transfected with human CD48 or CD59. However, binding studies on CD48-, CD58-, or CD59-transfected CHO cells with spCD2 under low stringency wash conditions revealed that human CD48 is a low affinity ligand of human CD2 compared with CD58 (Kd approximately 10(-4) vs. approximately 10(-6) M, respectively). The findings are noteworthy given that in the murine system CD48 is the major ligand for CD2. No detectable binding was observed to CD59-transfected CHO cells despite a report suggesting that CD59 may bind to the human CD2 adhesion domain. Importantly, in cell-cell adhesion assays between CD2+ Jurkat T cells and CD48- or CD59-transfected CHO cells, there was no conjugate formation, whereas binding of Jurkat T cells to CD58-transfected CHO cells was readily detected. Collectively, our findings provide evidence for a conservation of the CD2-CD48 interaction in the human species that may be of limited, if any, functional significance. Given the importance of the CD2-CD48 interaction in the murine system and CD2-CD58 interaction in humans, it would appear that there has been a divergence of functional CD2 ligands during the evolution of humans and mice.

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