Background: In mammals, cytotoxic CD8 T cells are crucial effectors of a typical adaptive cellular immune response. They recognize and kill cells that express at their surface antigenic peptides complexed to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. Although T cells (undefined as to CD determinants) and associated in vitro cytotoxic activity have been described in a few amphibian and teleost species, their in vivo functions have yet to be characterized.
Methods and results: CD8 function has been investigated in the frog Xenopus by antibody depletion, skin allografting, and tumor transplantation. Injection of adult frogs with anti-Xenopus CD8 monoclonal antibody effects transient CD8 T-cell depletion in vivo that correlates with delayed rejection of MHC-disparate skin allografts and an impaired immune response against transplanted syngeneic MHC class I-negative tumors.
Conclusions: For the first time, CD8 T cells have been shown to be involved in acute skin allograft rejection in an ectothermic vertebrate. Our data also suggest that, at least in Xenopus, T cells that express a CD8 epitope may be effectors in MHC-unrestricted anti-tumor responses.