T cells expressing gamma/delta T cell receptors home to epithelial tissue and may play a role in immunity to infectious agents and foreign antigens. In an effort to understand the role of gamma/delta T cells in directing B cell responses, we investigated the capacity of human gamma/delta T cells to express CD40 ligand (CD40L) and to drive immunoglobulin (Ig) isotype switching in B cells. A multiple step purification procedure resulted in the recovery of highly pure populations of peripheral blood CD4-CD8- gamma/delta T cells. Neither CD40L surface expression nor CD40L mRNA were detected in unstimulated gamma/delta T cells. Stimulation with phorbol ester and ionomycin induced CD40L mRNA and surface CD40L expression by gamma/delta T cells. Both the percentage of CD40L+ cells and the cell surface density of CD40L were significantly lower in gamma/delta T cells compared to unselected T cells. We further demonstrated that in the presence of neutralizing monoclonal antibody to interferon gamma (IFN-gamma), gamma/delta T cells could induce IgE synthesis in B cells, albeit to a lesser extent than unselected T cells. Furthermore, IgE synthesis driven by gamma/delta T cells was inhibited by monoclonal antibody to CD40L. These observations demonstrate that activated gamma/delta T cells express CD40L and can induce isotype switching in B cells.

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