In this study, we have investigated the ability of various cytokines to induce the maturation of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) cells with early T-cell phenotype. Leukemic blasts from 17 untreated T-ALL patients were assayed for their ability to acquire mature T-cell markers, CD3/T-cell receptor (TCR) in particular, after incubation with one or a combination of recombinant human interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, and CD2-specific monoclonal antibody (MoAb). IL-7 or IL-2 induced the proliferation of some leukemic cells, whereas sequential cell treatment with CD2-MoAb and then IL-2 promoted CD3/TCR expression on nearly all CD2+ cells (15 of 16), except for 1 T-ALL that developed into CD3-CD16+CD56+ cells. Differentiation of T-ALL cells was also evidenced through the downregulation of CD34 precursor cell antigen, the generation of CD4+ and CD8+ cells from CD4+ CD8+ precursors, and the acquisition of mature T-cell functions. CD2 ligation induced a progressive increase of surface expression of IL-2 receptor alpha (IL- 2R alpha) and IL-2R beta and an accelerated in vitro death of leukemic cells. The ligation of IL-2R by IL-2 rescued T-ALL cells from death and promoted their progression toward more mature cells expressing extracellular CD3/TCR alpha beta complexes. Intracellular analysis indicates that TCR alpha transcription and membrane translocation of both TCR alpha and TCR beta were promoted in these conditions. Analysis of intracellular signals transduced during T-ALL differentiation indicated that CD2-ligation induced Ca2+ influx and that the ligation of CD2 and IL-2R induced distinct tyrosine phosphorylation patterns. The addition of inhibitors of tyrosine phosphorylation abolished T-ALL cell differentiation, which suggests the involvement of tyrosine kinases in this phenomenon. Together, we showed the constant maturation of leukemic early T cells after stimulation of surface CD2 and the high- affinity IL-2R.

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