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Semin Immunol. 1994 Aug;6(4):213-20.

Do the CD4 and CD8 lineages represent parallel pathways?

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


It is now well established that the progression of T cell development requires interactions between the surfaces of thymocytes and thymic stromal cells. For example, the maturation of CD4+8+ cells into functional CD4+ or CD8+ cells requires TCR/MHC interactions, which, depending on the specificity of the particular TCR, direct the thymocyte to the appropriate lineage. Beyond this, little is known about the molecular mechanism of this lineage choice. Here we describe our recent studies of CD4/CD8 lineage commitment using TCR transgenic mice expressing a well-defined MHC class II specific TCR. While the results of these experiments are inconsistent with a model in which CD4 versus CD8 lineage is determined by an initial TCR/MHC/co-receptor interaction, they also do not support a simple stochastic model of lineage commitment. Instead, we suggest that the CD4 and CD8 lineage may not represent equivalent pathways of T cell maturation. Additionally, we draw several parallels between stochastic models in positive selection and in hematopoiesis.

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