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Nature. 1989 Aug 17;340(6234):559-62.

Phenotypic differences between alpha beta versus beta T-cell receptor transgenic mice undergoing negative selection.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305.


T-cell differentiation in the thymus is thought to involve a progression from the CD4-CD8- phenotype through CD4+CD8+ intermediates to mature CD4+ or CD8+ cells. There is evidence that during this process T cells bearing receptors potentially reactive to 'self' are deleted by a process termed 'negative selection' One example of this process occurs in mice carrying polymorphic Mls antigens, against which a detectable proportion of T cells are autoreactive. These mice show clonal deletion of thymic and peripheral T-cell subsets that express the autoreactive V beta 3 segment of the T-cell antigen receptor, but at most a two-fold depletion of thymic cells at the CD4+CD8+ stage. By contrast, transgenic mice bearing both alpha and beta chain genes encoding autoreactive receptors recognizing other ligands, show severe depletion of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes as well, suggesting that negative selection occurs much earlier. We report here the Mls 2a/3a mediated elimination of T cells expressing a transgene encoded V beta 3-segment, in T-cell receptor alpha/beta and beta-transgenic mice. Severe depletion of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes is seen only in the alpha/beta chain transgenic mice, whereas both strains delete mature V beta 3 bearing CD4+ and CD8+ T cells efficiently. We conclude that severe CD4+CD8+ thymocyte deletion in alpha/beta transgenic mice results from the premature expression of both receptor chains, and does not reflect a difference in the timing or mechanism of negative selection for Mls antigens as against the allo- and MHC class 1-restricted antigens used in the other studies.

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