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Eur J Immunol. 1990 Jan;20(1):129-37.

Immunohistology of T cell differentiation in the thymus of H-Y-specific T cell receptor alpha/beta transgenic mice.

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Department of Cell Biology II and Immunology, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


We examined the immunohistological aspects of the H-Y specific T cell receptor (TcR) alpha/beta transgene expression in the thymus of male and female transgenic (Tg) mice. Virtually all thymocytes expressed the beta transgene in both the male and female thymus. Expression of accessory molecules (co-receptors) in Tg mice deviated from control mice. In the male Tg thymus, CD8 expression was either low or absent on both cortical and medullary thymocytes. In contrast, in the thymus of female mice, CD8+ cells were found both in the cortex and in the medulla. The majority of medullary thymocytes was bright CD8+. This is in clear contrast to the CD8 distribution in control B6 mice, where only a few percent of medullary cells are CD8+. Similarly, the proportion of cells expressing CD4 antigens was reduced in the cortex and medulla of the thymus from male Tg mice, as compared to the thymus of female Tg mice and B6 control mice. Comparative analysis of the stromal cell types of the thymic microenvironments in the three groups of mice revealed that the cortical thymic microenvironment of male Tg mice differed, compared to that of female Tg mice. In particular, the deep cortex showed a closely packed meshwork of epithelial reticular cells. Moreover, H-2Db molecules (which are the restricting elements for the Tg TcR alpha/beta) were abnormally expressed in the thymic cortex of male mice. The cortical microenvironment in female mice, on the other hand, appeared normal. Together, the data indicate that TcR alpha/beta transgene expression in male mice leads to an aberrant co-receptor expression in both cortical and medullary lymphoid cells as well as an abnormal composition of the cortical microenvironment. Both phenomena may be the consequence of "negative selection" of developing H-Y-specific T cells, as it occurs only in the male Tg thymus. The absence of the H-Y antigen, but presence of the restricting element H-2Db in the thymic cortex of female mice, leads to accumulation of CD8+ in the medulla, a phenomenon interpreted as "positive selection".

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