The cell-surface expression of the MIC2 antigen defined by the monoclonal antibody 12E7 was investigated on human leukocytes in bone marrow (BM), thymus, and peripheral blood (PB) using multiparameter flow cytometry and cell sorting. In contrast to preceding reports, we found that the MIC2 antigen is not restricted to T cells and monocytes. We show that it is also expressed in the B cell and in the granulocytic lineage, the levels of expression being related to distinct maturational stages. CD34+ cells of BM were found to express the antigen at high levels. Along the granulocytic maturation pathway from CD34+CD33+ blasts to mature granulocytes, MIC2 densities appeared progressively reduced with a considerable decline at the myelocyte stage. In B lymphopoiesis, the earliest CD34+ CD10+ B-cell precursor (BCP) cells, further subdivided by expression of CD19, displayed the highest MIC2 density of BM leukocytes. All later BCP stages showed lower MIC2 expression levels, with a remarkable reduction concomitant with loss of the CD34 antigen at the CD10+CD20- surface mu-chain- stage, and a subsequent slight upregulation along with maturation to CD10-CD20high surface mu-chain+ BCPs. The brightest MIC2 expression of all cells tested was displayed by the most immature thymic T-lineage cells characterized by the antigenic profile CD34weakor- CD7++ surface CD3-CD1a(weak) CD4weak CD8-or weak. Common thymocytes stained slightly less intense with 12E7, whereas all subsequent stages of T-lineage cells in thymus, PB, or BM showed markedly reduced MIC2 levels. Mature peripheral CD4+ as well as CD8+ T cells displayed a bimodal distribution of MIC2. In the CD4+ population, the distinct MIC2 levels were related to the well-studied functional subdivision by differential expression of CD45 isoforms, the helper-inducer/memory subset showing higher MIC2 expression than helper-suppressor/naive CD4+ T cells. Similarly high MIC2 densities were found on CD16+ natural killer cells and on CD14+ monocytes, whereas mature peripheral B cells exhibited low or intermediate expression, and granulocytes exhibited no or only dim expression. These results document that the MIC2 antigen (1) is expressed on all leukocyte lineages; (2) is differentially expressed during T- and B-lymphoid, as well as granulocytic maturation; (3) shows highest expression in the most immature lymphocytic and granulocytic developmental stages; and (4) is also differentially expressed on functional T-cell subsets. We speculate that these observations imply a functional significance of MIC2 in the network of hematopoietic adhesion pathways.

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