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Nature. 1985 Mar 7-13;314(6006):101-3.

Expression and function of interleukin-2 receptors on immature thymocytes.


T-cell differentiation represents a unique system for studying mechanisms of lymphoid development because it occurs in a segregated site, the thymus, in which distinct subpopulations of thymocytes at various stages of differentiation can be defined on the basis of the differential expression of T-cell surface antigens as well as topography. There is particular interest in thymocyte differentiation because the genotype of radioresistant thymus cells influences the specificity repertoire of the pool of T cells that mature therein: that is, the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens expressed by thymus cells bias the pool of maturing T cells towards recognition of antigens in the 'context' of the products of that MHC haplotype ('thymus education'; refs 1-3). Immature T cells with affinity for thymus MHC antigens are generally thought to undergo a stage of positive selection in the thymus. Here we report that 30% of cells in the least mature adult thymocyte subpopulation yet defined, as well as 50% of immature fetal thymocytes, express receptors for interleukin-2 (IL-2, the T-cell growth factor) without in vitro induction, and will proliferate vigorously in an IL-2-dependent fashion if provided with co-stimulating mitogen.

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