CD8, belonging to the TCR complex, is the main marker molecule of CTLs. Although CD8 genes have been detected in many fish species, the analysis of teleost CD8+ cells has been limited because of the lack of antibodies. Using newly established mAbs against rainbow trout CD8α, we found high ratios of CD8α+ cells in trout thymus, gill and intestine, but relatively low abundance in pronephros, spleen and blood. Accordingly, tissue sections revealed many CD8α+ cells in thymus, numerous intra- and subepithelial CD8α+ cells in intestine and gill and few scattered CD8α+ cells in spleen and pronephros. In secondary lymphoid tissues, CD8α+ lymphocytes, which did not react with anti-thrombocyte or anti-IgM mAbs, expressed CD8α, CD8β and TCRα, while Ig and CD4 transcripts were found in CD8α- lymphocytes. In contrast, considerable CD4 expression in CD8α+ thymocytes suggests the presence of double-positive early T cells. Highly expressed TCRγ, LAG3 and CTLA4 in CD8α+ lymphocytes imply that they constitute a heterogeneous population different from found in non-mucosal tissues. PHA stimulation resulted in an up-regulation of CTL effector genes (perforin, granulysin and IFN-γ) in CD8α+ pronephrocytes, while both Th1 (IFN-γ) and Th2 (IL-4/13A) cytokines were up-regulated in CD8α- pronephrocytes. Although the basic characteristics of CD8α+ lymphocytes seem similar in teleost and mammals, features such as the low proportion of teleost CD8α+ lymphocytes in blood and their high abundance in respiratory tissue reveal a unique dynamics and distribution.
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