In contrast to broadly expressed classical class I antigens of the major histocompatibility complex, structurally closely related TL antigens are expressed in a highly restricted fashion. Unlike classical class I antigens, TL antigens are not known to be targets of cytotoxic T cells or to mediate graft rejection. Whereas classical class I antigens function as antigen-presenting molecules to T cell receptors (TCR), the role of TL is yet to be defined. To elucidate the function of TL, we have derived transgenic mice expressing TL in most tissues including skin by introducing a TL gene, T3b of C57BL/6 mouse origin, driven by the H-2Kb promoter. By grafting the skin of transgenic mice, we demonstrate that TL can serve as a transplantation antigen and mediate a TCR-alpha/beta+ CD8+ cytotoxic T cell response. This T cell recognition of TL does not require antigen presentation by H-2 molecules. Furthermore, we show that C57BL/6 F1 mice develop CD8+ T cells that are cytotoxic for C57BL/6 TL+ leukemia cells, providing further support for the concept that aberrantly expressed nonmutated proteins such as TL can be recognized as tumor antigens.

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