To examine the hypothesis that the antigen-specific T cell receptor (TcR) can function independently from the T3 complex on cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones, the physical and functional association of the T3 molecular complex and the T cell receptor has been examined on CTL clones that are differentially susceptible to inhibition by anti-T3 antibodies. From a panel of nine DPw2-specific CTL clones derived from the same donor, two clones (8.4 and 8.8) that were the most disparate in their susceptibility to inhibition by anti-T3 antibody were chosen for study. No significant differences were found between 8.4 and 8.8 for: (1) the levels of cell surface expression of the T3 complex and the TcR; (2) the ability to modulate T3 cell surface molecules; and (3) the capacity of the TcR to comodulate with the T3 complex. Modulation of the T3 complex from clone 8.4 did not significantly affect cytolytic activity, and incubation of modulated 8.4 with additional anti-T3 antibody did not inhibit cytolytic activity. Although no T3 function for clone 8.4 could be demonstrated by simply blocking cytolytic activity with anti-T3 antibody, addition of limiting quantities of anti-T11 (but not anti-T4, anti-Tac, or anti-LFA-1) antibodies plus anti-T3 produced a marked synergistic inhibition of cytolysis. These results suggest that: (1) CTL clones that are resistant to inhibition by anti-T3 antibodies actually have a physical and functional association between the T3 complex and the TcR; and (2) the ability to demonstrate a functional role for T3 by antibody blocking may, in some cases, require limiting the involvement of the T11 molecule in CTL-target interactions. The most likely explanation for the observed heterogeneity in susceptibility to blocking by anti-T3 antibodies is, therefore, thought to be that individual CTL clones possess TcR with differential avidity for specific targets.
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