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J Immunol. 1994 Feb 15;152(4):1709-17.

A peptide antigen antagonist prevents the differentiation of T cell receptor transgenic thymocytes.

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Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


The developmental fate of an immature T cell is determined in the thymus. Depending on the specificity of its TCR, a thymocyte receives signals to either die or differentiate. We have used fetal thymic organ cultures derived from TCR transgenic mice to examine the role of MHC/peptide ligands in T cell selection. Single amino acid substituted peptide analogues of the Ag recognized by the transgenic TCR were examined for their ability to enhance or interfere with positive selection. We have identified a nonstimulatory peptide analogue that interferes with the differentiation of transgenic CD4+8+ thymocytes into CD4+8- cells. We also show that this peptide, substituted in a TCR contact residue, is a competitive antagonist for activation of the T cell hybridoma expressing the same TCR. These observations demonstrate a novel mechanism for tolerance induction in the thymus.

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