Engagement of CD28 induces a major costimulatory pathway required by many CD4+ T cells in addition to activation via the TCR. In the absence of signals provided by CD28, ligation of the TCR alone can induce anergy or apoptosis in CD28+ cells. However, we report here characterization of a distinct subset of CD4+ T cells that are CD28-. Three autoreactive CD4+ human T cell clones that could be activated to produce IL-2 and proliferate by anti-CD3 alone were found to lack expression of CD28. CD28- clones that were activated with anti-CD3 alone were not anergic to restimulation via CD3. The presence of CD28-CD4+ T cells was verified in peripheral blood, and their frequency ranged from 0% to >22% of CD4+ T cells in different individuals. The percentage of CD28-CD4+ T cells in the peripheral blood of 57 individuals was significantly correlated with specific class II MHC alleles. Persons with HLA-DRB1*0401 and DR1 alleles had significantly higher numbers of CD28- T cells, while individuals with HLA-DR2(15) had significantly fewer CD28-CD4+ T cells than the mean. Like the CD28- clones, CD28-CD4+ T cells isolated from peripheral blood proliferated upon CD3 cross-linking in the absence of costimulation. The finding that CD28-CD4+ T cells resist induction of anergy following engagement of the TCR in the absence of conventional costimulation demonstrates one mechanism by which autoreactive T cells can escape processes that censor self-reactivity. The MHC associations observed suggest a relationship with autoimmunity and loss of self-tolerance.
- Copyright © 1996 by American Association of Immunologists