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Cell. 1991 Aug 9;66(3):533-40.

Kinetics and efficacy of positive selection in the thymus of normal and T cell receptor transgenic mice.

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Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland.


DNA-labeling studies in alpha beta T cell receptor (TCR) transgenic mice show that the lifespan of immature CD4+8+ thymocytes is 3.5 days irrespective of whether they are selected for maturation or not. While nonselected cells die, the binding of the TCR to thymic major histocompatibility complex molecules rescues CD4+8+ cells from programmed cell death and induces first upregulation of the TCR level and then differentiation into CD4+8- or CD4-8+ cells in the absence of any cell division. When most CD4+8+ thymocytes express a selectable transgenic TCR the formation of mature cells with high TCR levels is 10-20 times as efficient as observed in normal mice, yet still only 20% of the CD4+8+ cells become mature. This is due to the limited availability of selecting 'niches': most CD4+8+ thymocytes with a selectable transgenic TCR will undergo maturation when they represent only 5% or less of all CD4+8+ cells.

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