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J Immunol. 2002 May 1;168(9):4399-405.

Generation of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells from autoreactive T cells simultaneously with their negative selection in the thymus and from nonautoreactive T cells by endogenous TCR expression.

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Department of Allergy and Rheumatology, University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.


Normal T cell repertoire contains regulatory T cells that control autoimmune responses in the periphery. One recent study demonstrated that CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells were generated from autoreactive T cells without negative selection. However, it is unclear whether, in general, positive selection and negative selection of autoreactive T cells are mutually exclusive processes in the thymus. To investigate the ontogeny of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells, neo-autoantigen-bearing transgenic mice expressing chicken egg OVA systemically in the nuclei (Ld-nOVA) were crossed with transgenic mice expressing an OVA-specific TCR (DO11.10). Ld-nOVA x DO11.10 mice had increased numbers of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells in the thymus and the periphery despite clonal deletion. In Ld-nOVA x DO11.10 mice, T cells expressing endogenous TCR alpha beta chains were CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells, whereas T cells expressing autoreactive TCR were selected as CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells, which were exclusively dominant in recombination-activating gene 2-deficient Ld-nOVA x DO11.10 mice. In contrast, in DO11.10 mice, CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells expressed endogenous TCR alpha beta chains, which disappeared in recombination-activating gene 2-deficient DO11.10 mice. These results indicate that part of autoreactive T cells that have a high affinity TCR enough to cause clonal deletion could be positively selected as CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells in the thymus. Furthermore, it is suggested that endogenous TCR gene rearrangement might critically contribute to the generation of CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells from nonautoreactive T cell repertoire, at least under the limited conditions such as TCR-transgenic models, as well as the generation of CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells from autoreactive T cell repertoire.

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