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J Exp Med. 2002 Feb 18;195(4):485-94.

Thymic selection generates a large T cell pool recognizing a self-peptide in humans.

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Division of Clinical Onco-Immunology, University Hospital (CHUV), 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland.


The low frequency of self-peptide-specific T cells in the human preimmune repertoire has so far precluded their direct evaluation. Here, we report an unexpected high frequency of T cells specific for the self-antigen Melan-A/MART-1 in CD8 single-positive thymocytes from human histocompatibility leukocyte antigen-A2 healthy individuals, which is maintained in the peripheral blood of newborns and adults. Postthymic replicative history of Melan-A/MART-1-specific CD8 T cells was independently assessed by quantifying T cell receptor excision circles and telomere length ex vivo. We provide direct evidence that the large T cell pool specific for the self-antigen Melan-A/MART-1 is mostly generated by thymic output of a high number of precursors. This represents the only known naive self-peptide-specific T cell repertoire directly accessible in humans.

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