In the neonate, cellular immunity has generally been hypothesized as being incompetent. Accumulating evidence from several recent studies, together with our present report, contradicts this hypothesis. T-helper cell and T cytotoxic type 1 and 2 (Th1/Th2 and Tc1/Tc2, respectively) cytokine responses to polyclonal T cell receptor (TCR) activation were assessed in medium-term cultures of human cord blood T cells using intracellular cytokine staining, which could measure the frequencies of cytokine-producing cells. In this study, we examined the responses of cord blood CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells in regard to the production of interferon (IFN)-gamma and interleukin (IL)-4 and compared the responses with those obtained from T cells of healthy adults. We found that the responses in cord blood T cells activated with TCR stimulation were comparable to those of their adult counterparts. Moreover, the Th/Tc cells that developed in cord blood were as competent as adult cells for both IFN-gamma and IL-4 secretion. In addition, IL-12 production, which is critical for both Th1 and Tc1 responses, was equally comparable in the two groups. The production of two major cross-regulatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and IL-10, was similarly comparable and not significantly different between the two groups. Taken together, these results indicate that, though naive, the neonatal T cell is competent to respond to TCR-mediated stimulation and to produce both type 1 and type 2 cytokines.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.