The extra-enzymic function of cell-surface adenosine deaminase (ADA), an enzyme mainly localized in the cytosol but also found on the cell surface of monocytes, B cells and T cells, has lately been the subject of numerous studies. Cell-surface ADA is able to transduce co-stimulatory signals in T cells via its interaction with CD26, an integral membrane protein that acts as ADA-binding protein. The aim of the present study was to explore whether ADA—CD26 interaction plays a role in the adhesion of lymphocyte cells to human epithelial cells. To meet this aim, different lymphocyte cell lines (Jurkat and CEM T) expressing endogenous, or overexpressing human, CD26 protein were tested in adhesion assays to monolayers of colon adenocarcinoma human epithelial cells, Caco-2, which express high levels of cell-surface ADA. Interestingly, the adhesion of Jurkat and CEM T cells to a monolayer of Caco-2 cells was greatly dependent on CD26. An increase by 50% in the cell-to-cell adhesion was found in cells containing higher levels of CD26. Incubation with an anti-CD26 antibody raised against the ADA-binding site or with exogenous ADA resulted in a significant reduction (50–70%) of T-cell adhesion to monolayers of epithelial cells. The role of ADA—CD26 interaction in the lymphocyte—epithelial cell adhesion appears to be mediated by CD26 molecules that are not interacting with endogenous ADA (ADA-free CD26), since SKW6.4 (B cells) that express more cell-surface ADA showed lower adhesion than T cells. Adhesion stimulated by CD26 and ADA is mediated by T cell lymphocyte function-associated antigen. A role for ADA—CD26 interaction in cell-to-cell adhesion was confirmed further in integrin activation assays. FACS analysis revealed a higher expression of activated integrins on T cell lines in the presence of increasing amounts of exogenous ADA. Taken together, these results suggest that the ADA—CD26 interaction on the cell surface has a role in lymphocyte—epithelial cell adhesion.

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