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Nature. 1988 Dec 1;336(6198):471-3.

Positive selection of CD4+ thymocytes controlled by MHC class II gene products.

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Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Epalinges, Switzerland.


The mature T-cell antigen receptor repertoire is characterized by lack of reactivity to self-components as well as by preferential reactivity to foreign antigens in the context of polymorphic self-proteins encoded within the major histocompatibility complex. Whereas the former characteristic (referred to as negative selection or tolerance) is associated with intrathymic deletion of T cells expressing T-cell antigen receptor beta-chain variable (V beta) domains, which confer a preferential reactivity to self antigens, the existence of the latter (referred to as positive selection or MHC restriction) has so far only been inferred indirectly from functional studies. We show here that intrathymic deletion of V+beta 6 T cells (reactive with a self-antigen encoded by the Mlsa locus) is controlled by polymorphic MHC class II determinants. Furthermore, in mice lacking expression of Mlsa, the same class II MHC loci control the frequency of occurrence of V+beta 6 cells among mature CD4+ T lymphocytes. These data are direct evidence for positive selection by MHC determinants in the thymus in unmanipulated animals.

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