Full T-cell activation critically depends on the engagement of the TCR (T-cell receptor) in conjunction with a second signal by co-stimulatory receptors that boost the immune response. In the present study we have compared signalling patterns induced by the two co-receptors CD2 and CD28 in human peripheral blood T-cells. These co-receptors were previously suggested to be redundant in function. By a combination of multi-parameter phosphoflow cytometry, phosphokinase arrays and Western blot analyses, we demonstrate that CD2 co-stimulation induces phosphorylation of the TCR-proximal signalling complex, whereas CD28 activates distal signalling molecules, including the transcription factors NF-κB (nuclear factor κB), ATF (activating transcription factor)-2, STAT3/5 (signal transducer and activator of transcription 3/5), p53 and c-Jun. These signalling patterns were conserved in both naïve and effector/memory T-cell subsets. We show that free intracellular Ca2+ and signalling through the PI3K (phosphoinositide 3-kinase)/Akt pathway are required for proper CD28-induced NF-κB activation. The signalling patterns induced by CD2 and CD28 co-stimulation lead to distinct functional immune responses in T-cell proliferation and cytokine production. In conclusion, CD2 and CD28 co-stimulation induces distinct signalling responses and functional outcomes in T-cells.

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