Stimulation and inhibition of human T cell subsets by wheat germ agglutinin

D. S. Taylor, J. C. Reed, P. C. Nowell

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9 Scopus citations


Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), a tetravalent lectin, has both stimulatory and inhibitory effects on human T lymphocytes. It has been suggested that these actions are related and that WGA selectively stimulates a suppressive subset of T cells. We studied the ability of WGA to stimulate and inhibit subpopulations of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) known to have helper or suppressor activity. Fresh human PBMC were depleted of either T4+ or T8+ cells by using antibody-mediated complement lysis. The resultant cell populations were stimulated with WGA, and the proliferative response was assessed by [3H]thymidine incorporation, IL 2 receptor expression, the ability to elaborate IL 2 in culture supernatants, and the susceptibility to inhibition by the monoclonal antibody anti-Tac. Similar experiments with cells from a WGA-responsive continuous T cell culture were also performed. WGA inhibited phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-induced proliferation of PBMC depleted of either T4+ or T8+ cells. WGA also inhibited PBMC that had been depleted of adherent cells and Ia+ cells and then induced to proliferate with a combination of TPA and PHA. Our findings indicate that WGA induces IL 2-dependent proliferation in a small proportion of both T4+ and T8+ lymphocytes. We also provide evidence that the inhibitory activity of WGA is not mediated by a T4+, T8+, or Ia+ cell, suggesting that WGA acts directly on the proliferating cell rather than selectively stimulating a suppressive subpopulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3756-3761
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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