In this study, we determined the functional and biochemical differences in naive and primed CD4 T cells that expressed a TCR specific for the pigeon cytochrome c (pcc) peptide presented by I-Ek MHC class II molecules. Naive CD4 T cells expressing the transgenic TCR were isolated from the peripheral lymphoid organs of transgenic mice and stimulated with pcc peptide and IL-2 for 10 to 14 days. After this culture period, the Ag-primed cells were quiescent, as judged by the lack of expression of the early activation marker CD69, low expression of CD25 (IL-2R), and failure to incorporate thymidine. The primed cells required 10-fold less peptide than naive cells to achieve the same degree of proliferation and for the induction of CD69. Primed cells also mobilized calcium more efficiently with regard to Ag dose and magnitude of the response. The biochemical signal-transduction events in naive and primed T cells were compared by stimulating them with different concentrations of pcc peptide presented by adherent Ek-transfected fibroblasts. It was found that tyrosine phosphorylation and activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in primed cells required 10-fold less Ag and occurred more rapidly and intensively. Interestingly, peptide stimulation induced tyrosine phosphorylation of phospholipase C (PLC)-gamma 1 exclusively in primed cells. RasGAP was also more efficiently tyrosine phosphorylated in primed cells. By contrast, Shc was tyrosine phosphorylated to the same extent in naive and primed cells. PI3Kp85 was not tyrosine-phosphorylated in naive and primed cells either before or after peptide stimulation. We propose that the higher sensitivity of the primed cells to Ag stimulation is most likely dependent, at last in part, on the more efficient activation of PLC-gamma 1, MAPK, and calcium-dependent pathways.

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