Interleukin-4 induces expression of the CD45RA antigen on human thymocyte subpopulations

Int Immunol. 1990;2(12):1179-87. doi: 10.1093/intimm/2.12.1179.


Interleukin-4 (IL-4) is a multifunctional lymphokine which promotes the growth and/or maturation of multiple cell types. We have examined the ability of IL-4 to promote the phenotypic maturation of subsets of human thymocytes. When cultured in serum-free medium supplemented with recombinant IL-4, a subset of immature CD3-CD45RA- human thymocytes ceased to express the CD1 common thymocyte antigen and acquired phenotypic features characteristic of relatively mature thymocytes, such as high-density expression of the CD3 antigen and de novo expression of the CD45RA isoform of the common leukocyte antigen family. These changes, which were not seen in cells cultured in medium alone, occurred over an 8-9 day period and were accompanied by a significant increase in cell size. The CD45RA+ cells that derived from these immature CD3-CD45RA- precursors were mainly CD4-CD8- or CD8+ cells, and a significant proportion of these cells expressed the T cell receptor delta chain. IL-4 also increased expression of the CD45RA antigen on the more mature CD3+ thymocyte population. However, the CD45RA+ cells derived from IL-4 stimulated CD3+ thymocyte precursors expressed either the CD4 or the CD8 antigen, and virtually all expressed alpha/beta TCR chains. Studies of cell viability and cell growth indicated that these findings were due to direct changes in the phenotype of responsive cells rather than the growth or selective survival of a small number of mature thymocytes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis*
  • Antigens, Differentiation / analysis*
  • Antigens, Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Histocompatibility Antigens / analysis*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-4 / pharmacology*
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Phenotype
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-4
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens