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We investigated the requirements of positive and negative selection in the thymus for CD8 interaction and the selecting cell type. Thymic epithelial cells are known to mediate positive selection, whereas thymocytes fail to do so. The reason for this failure could be either the low amount of MHC class I molecules on thymocytes or the lack of other properties required for positive selection. To address this question a CD2.Kb transgenic mouse was prepared in which the expression of the Kb gene is under control of the CD2 promoter. In these mice the thymocytes exhibited very high levels of Kb. The mice were crossed with two TCR transgenic mice expressing either the Des.TCR (anti-Kb), which is positively selected on Kk and negatively on Kb, and the 2C.TCR (anti-Ld) with positive selection on Kb and negative on Ld. Despite the high Kb expression on thymocytes in CD2.Kb x 2C.TCR mice no positive selection was observed, whereas efficient negative selection was found in CD2.Kb x Des.TCR F1 mice. Thus, although thymocytes can negatively select, even a strong increase of MHC class I expression cannot convert them into positively selecting cells. This is consistent with the notion that thymic epithelium is specialized for positive selection, but the respective difference between thymocytes and thymic epithelium is not clear. The influence of CD8 was investigated using transgenic mice expressing a Kk/A2 or a Kb/A2 hybrid gene in which the promoter, the alpha 1, alpha 2 domains were of mouse origin and the alpha 3 domain of human origin. Because the murine CD8 molecule does not efficiently bind to human HLA class I, in these mice the CD8 interaction was impaired. In Kb/A2 x 2C.TCR and Kk/A2 x Des.TCR mice no positive selection of the respective TCR was found, whereas in Kb/A2 x Des.TCR mice negative selection was still functional. Altogether, the results indicate that positive selection depends more strictly on CD8 interaction and cell type than negative selection.


Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





4098 - 4105


Animals, Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, CD2 Antigens, CD8 Antigens, Female, H-2 Antigens, Histocompatibility Antigens Class I, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred DBA, Mice, Transgenic, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, Receptors, Immunologic, Thymus Gland