Phenotypic analysis of lymphocytes that mature extrathymically in congenitally athymic nude mice has revealed a large population of CD3+ CD8+ T cells that express gamma/delta-TCR. In euthymic mice, significant numbers of cells with this phenotype are found only in the intestinal epithelium. Intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes have been shown to be cytolytically active in vivo, as measured by the redirected lysis assay. In this communication, freshly harvested T cell subsets obtained from pooled nude mouse spleen and lymph nodes and separated by flow cytometric cell sorting were assayed for their ability to lyse FcR+ P815 targets in the presence of mAb to the epsilon-chain of the CD3 complex. CD8+, but not CD4+ or CD4- CD8-, T cells in nude mice were cytolytically active. CD8+ alpha/beta- and gamma/delta-TCR-bearing T cells from the spleen and lymph nodes of nude mice demonstrated similar cytolytic activity. No cytolytic activity of purified cell subsets was apparent in the absence of anti-CD3 mAb, even when NK-susceptible target cells were used. These data indicate that, in contrast to euthymic mice, a large proportion of CD8+ cells from the spleen and lymph nodes of nude mice are cytolytically active in vivo. In addition, these results suggest that the intestinal epithelium is not the only anatomical location where constitutively cytolytic CD8+ alpha/beta- or gamma/delta TCR-bearing T cells may be found.

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