The human leukemic T cell line 8402, which contains terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) and phenotypically resembles precursor thymocytes, when exposed to the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) undergoes in vitro T maturation. TdT disappears from virtually all the cells and a fraction of TdT- -cells express specific T surface markers, such as the T3 determinant. Like T lymphocytes from the thymus, 8402 cells are extremely sensitive to the cytotoxic effect of deoxyguanosine (dGuo). As a consequence of TPA treatment, resistance to dGuo is observed in 8402, as well as in two other TdT+ lymphoid T cell lines, Molt-4 and CEM-10. These results suggest the occurrence of changes in deoxynucleoside metabolism in TPA-treated cells related to the in vitro maturation process. Maturation of 8402 cells, once started, progresses in the presence of additional physiologic stimuli provided by conditioned medium from lymphocyte culture, because a portion of cells display the T8+/T4- phenotype characteristic of cytotoxic/suppressor T cells. This in vitro lymphoid system may thus be used to study the relationships of molecular differentiation between precursor thymocytes and cytotoxic/suppressor T cells.

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