Upregulation of CD4 on CD8+ T cells: CD4dimCD8bright T cells constitute an activated phenotype of CD8+ T cells


Dr L. Al-Harthi, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Department of Immunology and Microbiology, 1735 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA. E-mail: lalharth@rush.edu


Aside from an intermediate stage in thymic T-cell development, the expression of CD4 and CD8 is generally thought to be mutually exclusive, associated with helper or cytotoxic T-cell functions, respectively. Stimulation of CD8+ T cells, however, induces the de novo expression of CD4. We demonstrate that while superantigen (staphylococcal enterotoxin B, SEB) and anti-CD3/CD28 costimulation of purified CD8+ T cells induced the expression of CD4 on CD8+ T cells by 30 and 17%, respectively, phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) stimulation did not induce CD4 expression on purified CD8+ T cells but significantly induced the expression of both CD4 on CD8 (CD4dimCD8bright) and CD8 on CD4 (CD4brightCD8dim) T cells in unfractionated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). The level of the PHA-mediated induction of CD4dimCD8bright and CD4brightCD8dim was at 27 and 17%, respectively. Depletion of CD4+ T cells from PBMC abrogated this PHA-mediated effect. Autologous CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell co-cultures in the presence of PHA induced this CD4dimCD8bright T-cell expression by 33%, demonstrating a role for CD4 cells in the PHA-mediated induction of the double positive cells. The induction of CD4dimCD8bright was independent of a soluble factor(s). Phenotypic analysis of CD4dimCD8bright T cells indicated significantly higher levels of CD95, CD25, CD38, CD69, CD28, and CD45RO expression than their CD8+CD4 counterparts. CD4dimCD8bright T cells were also negative for CD1a expression and were predominately T-cell receptor (TCR) αβ cells. Our data demonstrate that CD4dimCD8bright T cells are an activated phenotype of CD8+ T cells and suggest that CD4 upregulation on CD8+ T cells may function as an additional marker to identify activated CD8+ T cells.