Effective T cell immune responses require the molecular interplay between adhesive and signaling events mediated by the T cell receptor for antigen (TCR) and other cell surface coreceptor molecules. In this report, we have distinguished between the role of regulated adhesion and transmembrane signaling in coreceptor function using the T cell glycoprotein CD2. By binding its ligands on antigen-presenting cell (APC), CD2 serves both to initiate signal transduction events and to promote cellular adhesion. Furthermore, the avidity of CD2 for one ligand, CD58 (LFA-3), is regulated by TCR signaling. We have expressed wild type CD2 and a series of mutated CD2 molecules in an antigen-specific murine T cell hybridoma. Structure-function studies using these stably transfected cell lines identify two structurally and functionally distinct regions of the 116 amino acid (aa) cytoplasmic domain. One region is required for CD2-mediated signal transduction, and a separate COOH-terminal 21 aa portion is required for CD2 activity regulation. Cell lines expressing CD2 molecules lacking the cytoplasmic segment required for CD2-initiated IL-2 production retain the ability to upregulate CD2 avidity. Conversely, cell lines expressing CD2 mutants lacking the cytoplasmic segment required for avidity regulation retain the ability to initiate CD2-specific signaling. In antigen-specific T cell responses, basal binding of CD2 to its ligands enhances antigen responsiveness only minimally, whereas regulated avidity and transmembrane signaling are both required for optimal coreceptor function. Taken together, these studies demonstrate the independent contributions of regulated adhesion and intracellular signaling in CD2 coreceptor function.

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