In the present study we describe a novel functional cell surface molecule, designated as Kp43, which is expressed among leukocytes by NK cells, TCR-gamma/delta + T lymphocytes, and some CD8+ CD56+TCR-alpha/beta + T cell clones. The Kp43 Ag is a 70-kDa disulfide-linked dimer, which migrates in SDS-PAGE under reducing conditions as a single 43-kDa band. Two-color immunofluorescence staining of fresh PBL revealed that only a fraction of CD16+, and of TCR-gamma/delta + T lymphocytes expressed the Ag. The analysis of TCR-alpha/beta + T cell clones showed that a small proportion (2 out of 20) weakly expressed Kp43 together with the CD8 and CD56 molecules. By immunoperoxidase staining of different tissues the anti-Kp43, reactivity was detected exclusively in lymphoid organs, where a minority of scattered cells was stained, and in some liver sinusoidal cells. Essentially all NK cells acquired Kp43 when stimulated with a B lymphoblastoid cell line. By contrast, the pattern of distribution of Kp43 remained stable upon in vitro culture of T-gamma/delta lymphocytes, thus delineating two subsets according to its expression. In lymphokine-activated killer populations, obtained by culturing either PBL or NK cells with high concentration of IL-2, most CD16+ and CD56+ cells became Kp43+. The Kp43-specific mAb inhibited the IL-2-dependent proliferative response of cultured NK and TCR-gamma/delta + T cells without affecting their non-MHC-restricted cytotoxicity. The partial inhibitory effect, which was mediated as well by pepsin digested F(ab')2 fragments, was lost upon reduction to Fab. The anti-Kp43 mAb did not interfere with the specific binding of IL-2 to its surface receptors. Altogether the data point out that the Kp43 dimer is involved in the regulation of the IL-2-dependent proliferative response of NK cells and a subset of TCR-gamma/delta + T lymphocytes.

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