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Immunol Lett. 1995 Jan;44(2-3):87-90.

A signal strength hypothesis of thymic selection: preliminary considerations.

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Max-Planck-Institut für Immunobiologie, Freiburg, Germany.


During their differentiation, thymocytes are subjected to two rounds of selection. First, CD4-8- double-negative (DN) thymocytes with a functional TCR-beta chain express a alpha-beta+ CD3 complex on their surface and, as a consequence, are selected to mature to the CD4+8+ double-positive (DP) stage. This round ends after the initial proliferation of young DP thymocytes and is termed beta-chain selection. Second, DP thymocytes are selected on the basis of their alpha+beta+ CD3 complex. This is termed repertoire selection and the cells are given three choices: death by neglect selection, death by positive selection, or deletion by negative selection. Using anti-CD3 epsilon mAb as invariant ligand, signals for beta-chain selection of DN cells including proliferation of DP cells do not require a Ca2+ response, are independent of CD3 zeta, and are only slightly impaired in the absence of p56lck (lck). Signals that induce positive selection of DP thymocytes require a partial Ca2+ response and CD3 zeta but are independent of lck. Deletion of DP thymocytes requires a full-blown Ca2+ response and both, CD3 zeta and lck. Thymic selection thus appears to be governed by a gradient of signal intensities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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