The glycoprotein CD86 expressed on APCs provides a costimulatory signal necessary for an efficient activation of naive T cells. In contrast, there is controversy about the condition of expression and the function of CD86 on T cells. In this study, we have analyzed the phenotype and the biological activity of CD86+ T cells generated from human PBMC. Results show that CD86 expression on T cells is induced by long term stimulation via CD3 and IL-2R and is down-regulated as the cells become quiescent. The CD86-expressing cells are memory effector T cells: 1) they express CD45RO and high levels of the activation markers CD25, CD54, and HLA-Dr; 2) they selectively express CD30, CD40-ligand, and CD70; and 3) in response to stimulation, most of them produce IFN-gamma before dying by apoptosis. We then analyzed whether CD86 expressed on T cells is functional. Results show that paraformaldehyde-fixed CD86+ T cells enhance the proliferation and production of IFN-gamma by anti-CD3 mAb-stimulated naive T cells and induce proliferation of resting allogenic T cells. All these effects are prevented by neutralizing anti-CD86 mAbs. In contrast, we report no autocrine effect of CD86 in CD86+ T cell activation. In conclusion, these data show that human memory effector T cells express a functional form of CD86 that can costimulate naive T cell responses.
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