Human memory CD4+ T lymphocytes are heterogenous in expression of integrins; one subset has the unexpected phenotype beta 1 low alpha 4 high. We demonstrate that this subset is unique among CD4+ cells in expression of high levels of alpha 4 beta 7, detected by a distinctive mAb Act-1. alpha 4 beta 7 is involved in binding to both fibronectin and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1; Act-1 blocks cell binding to the former and augments binding to the latter. Act-1 expression marks a subset of memory cells that, unlike the predominant circulating memory cell, has up-regulated beta 7 rather than beta 1. Their phenotype is distinct from that described for skin-homing T cells and is fully consistent with that described for gut-homing T cells. Differential adhesion capacity of this subset is verified by selective binding to FN and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 in a beta 1-independent fashion. Thus, alpha 4 beta 7 detected on this subset of circulating normal T cells fits the expectations for a gut-homing receptor.

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