T cell receptor engagement with CD28 costimulation is generally required for naive T cell activation, whereas reactivation of memory cells is less dependent on CD28 costimulation. We studied this process in chronic beryllium disease, in which the frequency of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells in the lung is large and circulating antigen-specific cells are also detectable. In the lung, a large fraction of CD4+ T cells stopped expressing CD28 mRNA and protein, and this change in phenotype correlated with lung inflammation. In the presence of concentrations of CTLA-4Ig that inhibited the CD28-B7 interaction, beryllium-specific CD4+ T cells in lung were still able to proliferate and secrete IFN-γ in response to beryllium in culture. This functional independence of CD28 costimulation included lung CD28+ effector cells. Although lung CD4+CD28– cells retained the ability to secrete Th1-type cytokines in response to beryllium, they showed less proliferative capacity and were more susceptible to cell death compared with CD28+ T cells. In contrast to lung cells, inhibition of the CD28-B7 interaction markedly reduced responses of beryllium-specific T cells in blood. Taken together, these findings suggest transition within memory CD4+ T cells from CD28 dependence in central memory cells to functional independence and then loss of CD28 expression in effector cells.


Andrew P. Fontenot, Laia Gharavi, Sean R. Bennett, Scott J. Canavera, Lee S. Newman, Brian L. Kotzin


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