The 50 KD sheep red blood cell antigen receptor CD2 is the earliest T cell differentiation marker and is present on all blood-derived T cells, including natural killer (NK) cells. The CD2 antigen is also known to serve as an important activation site regulating various T cell functions. We report that anti-CD2 monoclonal antibodies (MAb) block MHC-restricted class I- and class II-specific cytolysis by CD2+, CD3+ clones of the relevant target cells, irrespective of whether lysis by these clones is blocked by anti-CD3 or anti-CD8 MAb. Moreover, anti-CD2 MAb (but not anti-CD3 MAb) are able to reduce MHC-nonrestricted, nonspecific cytolysis: a) by CD2+, CD3+ clones of K562 target cells; and b) by CD2+, CD3 NK clones of K562 as well as Daudi cells. Different preparations of anti-CD2 MAb vary in their capacity to inhibit cytolysis. For cloned effector cells, the percent inhibition of lysis by CLB-T11 greater than Lyt-3 MAb, whereas with "fresh" NK cells, the lysis inhibitory ability of Lyt-3 greater than CLB-T11. The antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity by "fresh" and cloned NK cells is not inhibited by anti-CD2 MAb. Anti-CD2 MAb also prevent the induction of lysis by cross-linked anti-CD3 MAb, e.g., by CD2+, CD3+ cloned cloned cells against (IgG-FcR+) Daudi cells. Anti-CD2 MAb can also induce cytolysis in some, but not all, CD2+, CD3- NK clones against xenogeneic P815 mouse mastocytoma cells. Anti-CD2 MAb, in combination with lectins (PHA or Con A: pretreatment of effector cells), can also induce cytolytic activity by CD2+, CD3+ clones against Daudi cells. Our data therefore support the concept that the CD2 antigen is an important activation site regulating a wide variety of T cell functions including cytolysis. Whether ligand interaction with the CD2 antigens results in augmentation or inhibition of T cell functions may very well depend on the type of CD2 antigen-ligand interaction, e.g., cross-linked ligand-receptor interaction may, in general, enhance the various T cell functions, whereas noncross-linked ligand-receptor interactions may inhibit such functions, as we and other investigators demonstrated earlier for the CD3/Ti antigen-receptor complex activation site.

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