The generation of effector cytotoxic T lymphocytes from resting precursors proceeds through a series of steps in a pathway that, in aggregate, involves both proliferation and development of cytotoxicity. To understand the relationship of the various signals (mitogens and/or lymphokines) that bring about progress along this pathway, it is desirable to define a series of 'minimal signals', each of which stimulates the cell to proceed to a further stage in this process of differentiation. Stimulation of lymphocytes with two different monoclonal antibodies directed against the CD2 surface molecule induces a proliferative response; we report here that both CD4+ and CD8+ cells proliferate in response to such a stimulus but do not develop cytotoxicity. Addition of recombinant γ-interferon (rIFN-γ) or recombinant IL-2 (rIL-2) to the activated cells leads to acquisition of cytotoxic status by the CD8+ cells but not the CD4+ cells. The availability, in addition to precursors and effectors, of an apparently intermediate stage in the form of proliferating CD8+ cells that are non-cytotoxic should facilitate both cellular and molecular studies of this maturation pathway; the differences between CD4+ and CD8+ cells in development of cytotoxicity under these experimental conditions is a valuable model for understanding differentiation of T lymphocytes.
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