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Nat Immunol. 2001 Nov;2(11):1032-9.

Promiscuous gene expression in medullary thymic epithelial cells mirrors the peripheral self.

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Tumor Immunology Program, Division of Cellular Immunology, German Cancer Research Center, INF 280, D-69120, Germany.


Expression of peripheral antigens in the thymus has been implicated in T cell tolerance and autoimmunity. Here we identified medullary thymic epithelial cells as being a unique cell type that expresses a diverse range of tissue-specific antigens. We found that this promiscuous gene expression was a cell-autonomous property of medullary epithelial cells and was maintained during the entire period of thymic T cell output. It may facilitate tolerance induction to self-antigens that would otherwise be temporally or spatially secluded from the immune system. However, the array of promiscuously expressed self-antigens appeared random rather than selected and was not confined to secluded self-antigens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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