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Cell Immunol. 1999 Feb 1;191(2):139-44.

Cloning thymic precursor cells: demonstration that individual pro-T1 cells have dual T-NK potential and individual pro-T2 cells have dual alphabeta-gammadelta T cell potential.

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Laboratory of Immunoregulation, Division of Basic Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201, USA.


Thymic progenitors have the capacity to generate alphabeta T cells, gammadelta T cells, and NK cells. To determine whether these three lineages derive from a single precursor cell or from different precursors, a procedure was developed for cloning precursor cells from mouse embryonic thymus. The progeny of each pro-T cell clone were then tested for the potential to generate alphabeta, gammadelta, and NK cells. Of these precursor clones, about half displayed dual potential, developing into either T cells or NK cells, demonstrating the existence of a common T/NK precursor cell in the thymus. The other half of the clones were restricted to T cell development. No precursor clones were restricted to NK development. The common T/NK precursors were shown to be of the pro-T1 (CD25(-)) stage whereas the T-restricted precursors were shown to be of the later pro-T2 (CD25(+)) stage. Both alphabeta and gammadelta T cells were generated from all clones derived from either pro-T1 or -T2 precursors. This shows that commitment of a cell to the alphabeta versus gammadelta lineages does not precede rearrangement of the TCR genes (which occurs immediately after the pro-T2 stage).

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