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Antigen/MHC-specific T cells are preferentially exported from the thymus in the presence of their MHC ligand.

Transgenic mice expressing a T cell receptor heterodimer specific for a fragment of pigeon cytochrome c plus an MHC class II molecule (I-Ek) have been made. We find that H-2k alpha beta transgenic mice have an overall increase in the number of T cells and express a 10-fold higher fraction of cytochrome c-reactive cells than H-2b mice. Surface staining of thymocytes indicates that in H-2b mice, T cell development is arrested at an intermediate stage of differentiation (CD4+8+, CD310). Analyses of mice carrying these T cell receptor genes and MHC class II I-E alpha constructs indicate that his developmental block can be reversed in H-2b mice by I-E expression on cortical epithelial cells of the thymus. These data suggest that a direct T cell receptor-MHC interaction occurs in the thymus in the absence of nominal antigen and results in the enhanced export of T cells, consistent with the concept of "positive selection".

Pubmed ID: 2476238


  • Berg LJ
  • Pullen AM
  • Fazekas de St Groth B
  • Mathis D
  • Benoist C
  • Davis MM



Publication Data

September 22, 1989

Associated Grants


Mesh Terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD5
  • Antigens, CD8
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Ligands
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Thymus Gland