Cross-linking class I MHC molecules on human T cell clones by reacting them with various mAb directed at either monomorphic or polymorphic determinants on class I MHC molecules followed by cross-linking with GaMIg stimulated a rise in intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i), and induced proliferation and IL-2 production. T cell clones varied in the mean density of class I MHC molecules and the capacity to respond to mAb to class I MHC molecules. However, the functional responses of the clones did not correlate with class I MHC density or the CD4/CD8 phenotype. mAb to polymorphic class I MHC determinants were less able to induce an increase in [Ca2+]i and a functional response in the T cell clones. Additive stimulatory effects were noted when mAb against both HLA-A and HLA-B determinants were employed. Cross-linking class I MHC molecules on Jurkat cells induced a rise by [Ca2+]i and induced IL-2 production upon co-stimulation with PMA. Cross-linking class I MHC molecules on mutant Jurkat cells that expressed diminished levels of CD3 and were unable to produce IL-2 in response to anti-CD3 stimulation triggered both a rise in [Ca2+]i and IL-2 production with PMA co-stimulation. In contrast, cross-linking class I MHC molecules on mutant Jurkat cells that were CD3- stimulated neither a rise in [Ca2+]i nor IL-2 production. The combination of mAb to CD28 or ionomycin and PMA, however, was able to induce IL-2 production by CD3- Jurkat cells. The data demonstrate that cross-linking class I MHC molecules delivers a functionally important signal to T cell clones and Jurkat cells and indicate that class I MHC molecules may function to transduce activation signals to T cells. In addition, the data demonstrate that transmission of an activation signal via class I MHC molecules requires CD3 expression. The data, therefore, support a central role for CD3 in the transduction of activation signals to T cells via class I MHC molecules.

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