To characterize the function of the CD3 eta subunit of the T cell receptor (TCR), we have used cDNAs encoding CD3 zeta, CD3 eta, or both to reconstitute a variant of a cytochrome c-specific, I-Ek-restricted murine T cell hybridoma, termed MA5.8, which lacks CD3 zeta and CD3 eta proteins. We provide direct evidence that assembly and surface expression of TCRs can be mediated by either of these subunits separately or together. However, the level of TCR expression on zeta transfectants is up to one order of magnitude greater than that on eta transfectants, implying that CD3 eta is weakly associated with the pentameric Ti alpha-beta CD3 gamma delta epsilon complex and/or inefficient at salvaging the incomplete TCR from lysosomal degradation. As a component of the TCR, the CD3 eta subunit preferentially forms a heterodimer with CD3 zeta, but is also able to form a CD3 eta-eta homodimer. Crosslinking of Ti alpha-beta CD3 gamma delta epsilon zeta-zeta, Ti alpha-beta CD3 gamma delta epsilon eta-eta, or Ti alpha-beta CD3 gamma delta epsilon zeta-zeta/zeta-eta TCR isotypes with anti-CD3 epsilon monoclonal antibody or a cytochrome c peptide epitope on I-Ek antigen-presenting cells mediates signal transduction resulting in reversible cell-cycle arrest of transfected clones. Given the potential for diversity of signals generated by these functional TCR isotypes and the expression of the CD3 eta gene product in the thymus, CD3 eta is likely to play a role in selection and/or activation of thymocytes during development.

This content is only available as a PDF.