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J Immunol. 1988 Jun 15;140(12):4091-6.

Thymus-dependent and thymus-independent developmental pathways for peripheral T cell receptor-gamma delta-bearing lymphocytes.

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Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Bethesda, MD 20892.


To elucidate the developmental pathways of T cells that bear TCR gamma delta, we have analyzed the kinetics of expression and biochemical characteristics of gamma delta receptors in the thymus and spleen of normal and athymic (nude) mice, as well as nude mice engrafted with neonatal thymuses. TCR gamma delta-bearing thymocytes and splenocytes have a CD4-8- phenotype, and both populations express products of the C gamma 1 locus. TCR gamma delta-bearing cells develop in the thymus before their appearance in the spleen. Young nude mice have no detectable TCR gamma delta-bearing cells in their spleens. When young nude mice are given thymus grafts, TCR gamma delta-bearing cells of host origin first develop in the engrafted thymus, followed by their appearance in the spleen. In the absence of a thymus graft, the spleens of old nude mice eventually develop small numbers of TCR gamma delta + cells, as well as TCR alpha beta + cells. These results demonstrate that there is a major thymic-dependent pathway for TCR gamma delta expression, as well as a minor thymic-independent pathway seen in older nude mice. The development of TCR gamma delta + cells in the thymus before their appearance in the spleen, both in normal ontogeny as well as in the thymus-engrafted nude mouse model, suggests that thymic TCR gamma delta + cells are precursors of the thymus-dependent population of peripheral TCR gamma delta + cells.

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