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J Immunol. 2019 Aug 15;203(4):881-887. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1900097. Epub 2019 Jun 24.

TCR Affinity for In Vivo Peptide-Induced Thymic Positive Selection Fine-Tunes TCR Responsiveness of Peripheral CD8+ T Cells.

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Division of Experimental Immunology, Institute of Advanced Medical Sciences, University of Tokushima, Tokushima 770-8503, Japan; and.
Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892


The affinity for TCR interactions with self-peptide/MHC complexes (pMHC) in the thymus critically affects immature thymocytes that newly express TCRs. Previous fetal thymus organ culture experiments have indicated that difference in the affinity for thymic TCR/pMHC interactions not only determines thymocyte fate between positive and negative selection, but also affects Ag responsiveness of positively selected thymocytes. In the current study, we examined whether TCR/pMHC affinity during positive selection in the thymus would further affect Ag responsiveness of mature T cells in the periphery. To do so, OVA peptide variants were in vivo administered to TAP1-deficient OT-I/TCR-transgenic mice in which T cell development was otherwise arrested at CD4+CD8+ thymocytes because of the lack of self-pMHC presentation in thymic APCs. We found that a group of peptide variants induced the transient generation of OT-I CD8+ T cells in the thymus and the periphery. We also noticed that the affinity threshold for positive and negative selection detected in adult mice in vivo was higher than that measured in fetal thymus organ culture experiments in vitro. Interestingly, we further found that the affinity for positively selecting peptides proportionally affected TCR responsiveness of peripheral naive CD8+ T cells. These results indicate that in vivo administration of a peptide can promote T cell selection in the thymus and the affinity for TCR/pMHC interaction during positive selection fine-tunes Ag responsiveness of peripheral T cells.

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