Lymphocyte recognition of antigen by the antigen-specific T cell receptor (TCR) and coreceptor complexes rapidly alters the cell's adhesive properties facilitating high avidity cell-ligand interactions necessary for lymphocyte development and function. Here, we report the expression of CD81 (target of antiproliferative antigen [TAPA]-1) on human thymocytes and the physical association of CD81 with CD4 and CD8 T cell coreceptors. Antibody ligation of CD81 on thymocytes promotes the rapid induction of integrin-mediated cell-cell adhesion via lymphocyte function-associated molecule-1 (LFA-1). Cross-linking CD81 is also shown to be costimulatory with signaling through the TCR/CD3 complex inducing interleukin 2-dependent thymocyte proliferation. These data suggest that a CD81-mediated pathway in thymocytes is involved in the regulation of both cell adhesion and activation.

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