Immunomodulatory effects of transforming growth factor-β on T lymphocytes: Induction of CD8 expression in the CTLL-2 cell line and in normal thymocytes

Thomas H. Inge, Kathleen M. McCoy, Brian M. Susskind, Sandra K. Barrett, Gang Zhao, Harry D. Bear*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


We investigated the role of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) in regulation of T cell growth and differentiation. Treatment of CTLL-2 cells with TGF-0 inhibited IL-2-dependent proliferation and caused morphologic changes as well as increased adherence. A major change of phenotype in TGF-β-treated cells was the de novo expression of CDSa chain in 35% of cells, which required the continuous presence of TGF-β. Of the CD8α+ cells, 20 to 30% coexpressed CD8β chain. Increased CD8 expression occurred even in the total absence of cell growth, was not a consequence of growth inhibition, and was not a result of selective growth or survival of CD8+ cells. New RNA synthesis was required for TGFβ-induced CD8α surface expression, inasmuch as this was prevented by treatment with actinomycin D. Northern blot analysis demonstrated that cells treated with IL-2 + TGF-β rapidly accumulated mRNA encoding both chains of the CD8 dimer, to a level fourfold greater than control by 6 to 12 h. In contrast, the IL-2-dependent increases in IL-2Rα, IL-2Rβ, and Granzyme B mRNA levels in these cultures were profoundly inhibited by TGF-β. When unfractionated murine thymocytes were stimulated with phorbol dibutyrate plus ionomycin and cultured with IL-2 + TGF-β, an increase in CD8α mRNA was seen and greater numbers of CD8+ cells with higher levels of CD8α and CD8β surface expression resulted, as compared to controls treated with IL-2 alone. Furthermore, similar treatment of CD4-CD8- (double negative) thymocytes with TGF-β induced de novo CD8α expression by a substantial number of cells, and the majority of these CD8+ cells lacked TCR/CD3. These data suggest that TGF-β has both positive and negative regulatory effects on the expression of gene products important for T lymphocyte differentiation and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3847-3856
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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