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Eur J Immunol. 1997 Feb;27(2):361-7.

Absolute dependence of T cell receptor(hi) cell generation and relative dependence of T cell receptor(int) cell generation on the thymus.

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Department of Immunology, Niigata University School of Medicine, Japan.


Recent evidence indicates that conventional T cells are generated by the mainstream of T cell differentiation in the thymus and acquire a high density of T cell receptor expression (i.e. TCRhi). In contrast, primordial T cells (or NK1.1+ T cells) are generated by the extrathymic pathways or an alternative intrathymic pathway and express an intermediate density of TCR (i.e. TCRint). To obtain further evidence, it was examined how thymus grafting influenced the distribution of T cell populations in athymic nude mice. When BALB/c nu/nu mice were engrafted with thymocyte-depleted BALB/c+/+ fetal thymi, two changes emerged after grafting: nude mice generated TCRhi cells de novo in the periphery as well as in the grafted thymi, and the absolute number of interleukin-2 receptor beta chain+ TCRint cells increased prominently in number in the periphery. Among thymic hormones tested, the administration of thymosin alpha induced a slight expansion of CD3int cells in nude mice. To examine a possible interaction of TCRint cells with TCRhi cells in the periphery, B6 nu/nu mice (Ly5.2+) were injected with TCRhi cells purified from the spleen of B6 Ly5.1 congenic mice. In this case, TCRint (Ly5.2+) cells expanded well in all tested organs of nude mice. These results suggest that the generation of TCRhi cells is absolutely dependent on the thymus and that TCRint cells expand under the influence of the thymus (humoral) and due to interaction with thymus-derived conventional T cells.

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