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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Apr 2;93(7):3031-6.

Intravenous injection of soluble antigen induces thymic and peripheral T-cells apoptosis.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305, USA.


The mechanism by which tolerance is induced via systemic administration of high doses of aqueous antigen has been analyzed by using mice transgenic for a T-cell receptor specific for the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) peptide comprising amino acids 126-138. After intravenous injection of 750 (but not 75) micrograms of HA peptide, a state of hyporesponsiveness was rapidly induced. In the thymus, in situ apoptosis in the cortex and at the corticomedullary junction was responsible for a synchronous and massive deletion of CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes. In secondary lymphoid organs, HA-reactive T cells were initially activated but were hyporesponsive at the single cell level. After 3 days, however, those cells were rapidly deleted, at least partially, through an apoptotic process. Therefore, both thymic and peripheral apoptosis, in addition to T-cell receptor desensitization, contribute to high-dose tolerance.

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