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Immunity. 2003 Jan;18(1):131-40.

Neonates support lymphopenia-induced proliferation.

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Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


T cells expand without intentional antigen stimulation when transferred into adult lymphopenic environments. In this study, we show that the physiologic lymphopenic environment existing in neonatal mice also supports CD4 T cell proliferation. Strikingly, naive CD4 T cells that proliferate within neonates acquire the phenotypic and functional characteristics of memory cells. Such proliferation is inhibited by the presence of both memory and naive CD4 T cells, is enhanced by 3-day thymectomy, is independent of IL-7, and requires a class II MHC-TCR interaction and a CD28-mediated signal. CD44(bright) CD4 T cells in neonates have a wide repertoire as judged by the distribution of Vbeta expression. Thus, lymphopenia-induced T cell proliferation is a physiologic process that occurs during the early postnatal period.

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