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EMBO J. 1991 Apr;10(4):913-8.

Development of the CD4 and CD8 lineage of T cells: instruction versus selection.

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Basel Institute for Immunology, Switzerland.


T cells bearing the alpha beta T cell receptor (TCR) can be divided into CD4+8- and CD4-8+ subsets which develop in the thymus from CD4+8+ precursors. The commitment to the CD4 and CD8 lineage depends on the binding of the alpha beta TCR to thymic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) coded class II and class I molecules, respectively. In an instructive model of lineage commitment, the binding of the alpha beta TCR, for instance to class I MHC molecules, would generate a specific signal instructing the CD4+8+ precursors to switch off the expression of the CD4 gene. In a selective model, the initial commitment, i.e. switching off the expression of either the CD4 or the CD8 gene would be a stochastic event which is then followed by a selective step rescuing only CD4+ class II and CD8+ class I specific T cells while CD4+ class I and CD8+ class II specific cells would have a very short lifespan. The selective model predicts that a CD8 transgene which is expressed in all immature and mature T cells should rescue CD4+ class I MHC specific T cells from cell death. We have performed experiments in CD8 transgenic mice which fail to support a selective model and we present data which show that the binding of the alpha beta TCR to thymic class I MHC molecules results in up-regulation of the TCR in the CD4+8+ population. Therefore, these experiments are consistent with an instructive model of lineage commitment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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