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J Clin Invest. 1999 Nov;104(9):1297-305.

Autospecific gammadelta thymocytes that escape negative selection find sanctuary in the intestine.

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  • 1Division of Cellular Immunology, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, San Diego, California 92121, USA.


alphabeta or gammadelta thymocytes whose T-cell receptors (TCRs) recognize endogenously expressed antigens (Ag) are autospecific and, thus, potentially self-reactive. In the thymus, such T cells are eliminated during T-cell development through a process known as negative selection. As a model of negative selection of gammadelta T cells, we have used G8 gammadelta-T cell transgenic mice, which express a gammadelta TCR that recognizes the nonpolymorphic MHC class I TL(b) molecule. Here, we demonstrate that negative selection of autospecific gammadelta T cells is almost complete in the adult thymus but is markedly attenuated in the neonatal thymus. A consequence of this attenuated negative selection is that potentially self-reactive gammadelta thymocytes are allowed to escape negative selection, undergo extrathymic differentiation, and find sanctuary in the intestinal epithelium. Interestingly, the ability of these potentially self-reactive gammadelta T cells to find sanctuary requires both the intestinal epithelial environment and the extrathymic presence of the self-Ag. The implications of these findings on the development and persistence of autoreactive T cells in autoimmune disease are discussed.

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