The interleukin 2 (IL 2) receptor was studied in three cases of large granular lymphocyte (LGL) lymphocytosis. All cases were nonreactive with anti-Tac monoclonal antibody (MoAb; recognizing the p55 alpha subunit of the IL 2 receptor). Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS)/polyacrylamide gel electrophoretic analysis (PAGE) of cells to which radio-labeled rIL 2 had been chemically crosslinked revealed uniform expression of the p70/75 beta subunit of the IL 2 receptor in the absence of the alpha subunit. Stimulation of this receptor with 2 nmol/L rIL 2 for five days led to acquisition of anti-CD3 redirected cytotoxicity. This was accompanied by a fivefold to tenfold elevation in the activity of intracellular N-alpha-benzyloxycarbonyl-L-lysine thiobenzyl esterase, an LGL granule marker enzyme. These effects of IL 2 did not require induction of the Tac peptide.

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