OX40 is a member of the TNF receptor family expressed on activated and regulatory T (Treg) cells. Using an Ox40-cre allele for lineage marking, we found that a subpopulation of naive T cells had also previously expressed OX40 in the thymus. Ox40-cre was induced in a small fraction of thymocytes that were OX40(+), some of which were CD25(high) Treg cell precursors. Thymic OX40 expression distinguished cells experiencing a strong signaling response to positive selection. Naive T cells that had previously expressed OX40 demonstrated a partially activated phenotype that was distinct from that of most naive T cells. The results are consistent with the selection of Treg cells and a minor subpopulation of naive T cells being dependent on strong signaling responses to thymic self ligands.
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