In previous studies we identified a surface molecule (termed GL183) capable of mediating cell activation and selectively expressed by a subset of human CD3-CD16+ natural killer (NK) cells. In this study we analyzed whether other subset-specific functional molecules were expressed in GL183- NK cells. To this end, mice were immunized with the PE29 (CD3-CD16+GL183-) NK clone. Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) were selected by screening the hybridoma supernatants for their ability to trigger the cytolytic activity of clone PE29 against the human myelomonocytic leukemia U937. The EB6 mAb (IgG1) triggered the PE29 clone, but not a GL183+ clone used as a control. EB6+ cells ranged between 1 and 13% of peripheral blood lymphocytes and were largely included in the CD3-CD16+CD56+ cell populations (only less than 2% of EB6+ cells were CD3+). Analysis of resting or activated CD3-CD16+ populations, or clones for the expression of EB6 or GL183 mAbs, allowed us to identify four distinct, phenotypically stable, NK subsets (EB6+GL183-; EB6+GL183+; EB6-GL183+; EB6-GL183-). Similar to GL183 mAb, the EB6 mAb selectively triggered the NK subset expressing the corresponding surface antigen to lyse human tumor cell lines including U937, IGROV-I, M14, and A549. In addition, EB6 mAb sharply inhibited the cytolytic activity of EB6+ clones against P815, M12, and P3U1 murine target cells. In EB6+GL183+ ("double-positive") clones both EB6 and GL183 mAb inhibited the redirected killing of P815 cells induced by anti-CD16, anti-CD2 mAbs and phytohemagglutinin (PHA). Similar to GL183 molecules, molecules precipitated by EB6 mAb were represented by either single 58-kD chain or double chains of 55 and 58 kD (with no detectable differences in EB6+GL183- or EB6+GL183+ clones). In sequential immunoprecipitation experiments using the double-positive clones CEG52 and CA25.50, preclearing of cell lysates with EB6 or GL183 mAb removed only EB6 or GL183 molecules, respectively, thus indicating that the two antigenic determinants are carried by two distinct molecules. Peptide map analysis indicated that EB6 (or GL183) molecules precipitated from double-positive clones were identical to the corresponding molecules isolated from single-positive ones. On the other hand, comparison of the EB6 and GL183 maps revealed peptides that were unique to each molecule, although most of the major peptides migrated to identical positions. We further investigated whether correlation existed between the phenotypic assignment of NK clones and their ability to mediate specific lysis of normal allogeneic cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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