The membrane receptor 2B4 is a CD2 family member that is involved in lymphocyte activation. A fraction of human CD8+ alphabeta T cells up-regulate 2B4 in vivo, and here we demonstrate that this correlates with the acquisition of effector cell properties such as granzyme B and perforin expression, rapid IFN-gamma production, and down-regulation of the lymph node homing chemokine receptor CCR7. In PBLs from healthy donors, cytomegalovirus-specific effector T cells were 2B4 positive, whereas naive melanoma Ag (Melan-A/melanoma Ag recognized by T cells-1)-specific T cells were 2B4 negative. In melanoma patients, Melan-A-specific T cells up-regulated 2B4 in parallel with in vivo differentiation. This occurred in PBLs after vaccination with Melan-A peptides and in tumor-infiltrated lymph nodes, likely through disease-associated activation of Melan-A-specific T cells. Thus, 2B4 expression correlates with CD8+ T cell differentiation in vivo.
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