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Immunol Rev. 1991 Aug;122:47-67.

Non-deletional mechanisms of peripheral and central tolerance: studies with transgenic mice with tissue-specific expression of a foreign MHC class I antigen.

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German Cancer Research Center, Institute for Immunology and Genetics, Heildelberg.


The studies described here reveal a surprising variety of non-deletional manifestations of tolerance (anergy and unresponsiveness) in both the thymus and peripheral lymphoid organs. This can be observed in anti-Kb TCR transgenic mice crossed with normal Kb positive mice, and in TCR mice crossed with transgenic mice expressing Kb in restricted tissues, such as liver, epithelial cells, cells of neuroectodermal origin etc. Thymic induction of unresponsiveness: Transgenic mice were prepared with the a, beta TCR genes from a CD8-dependent and Kb-specific CTL clone. In homozygous H-2b mice clonotype+ cells were found in the thymus but none or few in the periphery, suggesting that deletion occurs in the thymus although lack of migration to the periphery has not been ruled out. In H-2 heterozygous mice (TCR.H-2kxb) deletion was incomplete in the thymus and clonotype+ cells accumulated substantially in the periphery. Most of them had downregulated their CD8 molecules. The clonotype+ cells in both the thymus and periphery were unresponsive to the Kb antigen in vitro, suggesting the induction of anergy in the thymus. The inefficient negative selection in H-hkxb heterozygous mice is probably due to the lower Kb expression in comparison to H-2b homozygous mice. We then further reduced the amount of Kb expression in the thymus by constructing Kb transgenic mice using the 0.8 Kb fragment of the keratin IV promoter. In the thymus expression was only observed on a subset of medullary epithelial cells. When these mice were crossed with the TCR transgenic mice than no deletion was observed in the thymus. However, the clonotype+ CD8+ thymocytes could not respond to Kb in vitro, indicating that they had been rendered anergic in the thymus. These data show that unresponsiveness can be induced in the thymus, that the extent of clonal deletion can vary greatly owing to a change in antigen expression by a factor of two as in H-2 heterozygous versus homozygous mice, and that expression of Kb on a few medullary thymic epithelial cells is sufficient to induce anergy. Peripheral induction of unresponsiveness: To study the consequence of tissue-specific tolerogen expression we have generated transgenic mice expressing Kb exclusively in cells of neuroectodermal origin (GFAP.Kb mice) in the liver (alumin.Kb mice), or in certain epithelial cells outside the thymus (2.4 keratin IV.Kb mice). Consistent with the absence of Kb expression in the thymus there was no deletion of clonotype+ CD8+ cells in the thymus, and the thymocytes were fully functional.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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