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Nat Rev Immunol. 2003 May;3(5):383-91.

Negative selection--clearing out the bad apples from the T-cell repertoire.

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  • 1Laboratory of Transplantation Immunology and Nephrology, University Hospital Basel, Hebelstrasse 20, CH-4031 Basel, Switzerland.


Dead cells are a prominent feature of the thymic landscape as only 5% of developing thymocytes are exported as mature T cells. The remaining thymocytes die by one of two mechanisms; most thymocytes die because they are not positively selected and do not receive a survival signal, whereas a minority of thymocytes undergo T-cell receptor (TCR)-mediated apoptosis, a process known as negative selection. Negative selection is extremely important for establishing a functional immune system, as it provides an efficient mechanism for ridding the T-cell repertoire of self-reactive and potentially autoimmune lymphocytes. This review discusses several cellular and molecular aspects of negative selection.

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