The transcriptome of human cytotoxic T cells: similarities and disparities among allostimulated CD4(+) CTL, CD8(+) CTL and NK cells

Am J Transplant. 2008 Mar;8(3):627-36. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2007.02128.x.


Transcripts expressed in cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) have mechanistic and diagnostic importance in transplantation. We used microarrays to select CTL-associated transcripts (CATs) expressed in human CD4(+) CTL, CD8(+) CTL and NK cells, excluding transcripts expressed in B cells, monocytes and kidney. This generated three transcript sets: CD4(+)-associated, CD8(+)-associated and NK-associated. Surprisingly, many CATs were expressed in effector memory cells e.g. granzyme B/GZMB, interferon-gamma/IFNG. Transcript expression was very similar between CD4(+) and CD8(+) CTL. There were no transcripts highly selective for CD4(+) CTL or CD8(+) CTL: for example, cytotoxic molecule transcripts (perforin, granzymes, granulysin) were shared between CD8(+) CTL and CD4(+) CTL although expression remained higher in CD8(+) CTL. Transcripts that differentiated between CD8(+) CTL and CD4(+) CTL were primarily those shared between CD8(+) CTL and NK cells (e.g. NK receptors KLRC1, KLRC3, KLRD1, KLRK1). No transcripts could differentiate CD4(+) CTL from CD8(+) CTL but NK cell-associated transcripts could differentiate NK cells from CTL. This study serves as a foundation for the interpretation of CATs in rejecting allografts and highlights the extensive sharing of CATs among CD4(+) CTL, CD8(+) CTL and effector memory T cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Transplantation / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transplantation, Homologous / immunology


  • RNA, Messenger