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Immunol Res. 1997 Feb;16(1):3-14.

Thymic stromal cell specialization and the T-cell receptor repertoire.

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Department of Immunology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Ten years ago, we proposed a model for thymus function in which thymic epithelial cells are primarily responsible for imprinting major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-restricted specificity, and bone marrow-derived macrophages or dendritic cells are responsible for the induction of self-tolerance. Since then, transgenic and knockout models have allowed for a dissection of thymic stromal components in vivo, leading to a new understanding of their specialized functions. We have determined that with regard to class II-restricted CD4 T-cell development, two distinct subsets of thymic epithelium help shape the repertoire: Cortical epithelium appears solely responsible for positive selection, whereas a fucose-bearing subset of medullary epithelium is specialized for negative selection. This absolute separation of positive and negative selection into two distinct spatial and temporal compartments leads to a much simpler view of the process of repertoire selection. Finally, a novel view of the function of the thymic medulla is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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