T cell receptor (α, β, γ) gene rearrangements and expression in normal and leukemic large granular lymphocytes/natural killer cells
Killer Cells, Natural
Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
The large granular lymphocyte (LGL) population, which effects a natural killer (NK) function, consists of cells whose lineage derivation has not been clearly established on the basis of phenotypic and functional properties. To clarify the relationship of LGL/NK cells to T cells we studied patterns of rearrangement and expression of the T cell receptor (Ti) genes alpha, beta, and gamma in normal human LGLs; in CD8+, CD8-, Mol+, and Mol- LGL subsets; and in 17 cases of leukemic LGL proliferations (T gamma LPD). T alpha, T beta, and T gamma genes were not expressed, nor were T beta and T gamma genes rearranged in normal LGLs or LGL subsets. The T gamma LPD were divided into two groups. One group (15/17 cases) was characterized as CD3+ and displayed Ti gene rearrangements. Seven of these cases were reactive with monoclonal antibody WT31, which suggested expression of an alpha/beta heterodimer on the cell surface. The other group (2/17 cases) was CD3- with unrearranged Ti genes. These results indicate that the normal LGL/NK population is homogeneous and distinct from the normal T cell population because it does not express, and as a result, cannot effect its immune function through the T cell receptor molecules. Conversely, T gamma LPDs represent a heterogeneous group of lymphoproliferative diseases within which the CD3-, Ti- cases most likely represent the neoplastic counterpart of normal LGL cells. The more frequent CD3+ cases may be related to recently described NK-like T cells. The observations that normal LGLs maintain germline T gamma genes and that many CD3+ T gamma LPD display an alpha/beta heterodimer suggest that a T gamma-containing receptor may not be necessary for NK or NK-like cytotoxicity.