Costimulation mediated by the CD28 molecule plays an important role in optimal activation of T cells. However, CD28-deficient mice can mount effective T cell-dependent immune responses, suggesting the existence of other costimulatory systems. In a search for other costimulatory molecules on T cells, we have developed a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that can costimulate T cells in the absence of antigen-presenting cells (APC). The molecule recognized by this mAb, 9D3, was found to be expressed on almost all mature T cells and to be a protein of approximately 24 kD molecular mass. By expression cloning, this molecule was identified as CD9, 9D3 (anti-CD9) synergized with suboptimal doses of anti-CD3 mAb in inducing proliferation by virgin T cells. Costimulation was induced by independent ligation of CD3 and CD9, suggesting that colocalization of these two molecules is not required for T cell activation. The costimulation by anti-CD9 was as potent as that by anti-CD28. Moreover, anti-CD9 costimulated in a CD28-independent way because anti-CD9 equally costimulated T cells from the CD28-deficient as well as wild-type mice. Thus, these results indicate that CD9 serves as a molecule on T cells that can deliver a potent CD28-independent costimulatory signal.

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