The development of T cells within the thymus is not well understood. It is known that thymocytes are derived from a progenitor cell in the bone marrow, the prothymocyte1–5, and that cells in the subcapsular area of the thymus can give rise to progeny in both the cortex and the medulla6. However, it is not clear whether all medullary thymocytes are necessarily derived from cortical cells7,8. In particular, it has been difficult to distinguish intrathymic progenitor cells. Recently, however, Lesley et al.9 have defined a thymocyte subpopulation which can be isolated by treatment of the thymus with cytotoxic anti-Thy-1 antibodies and that seems to be enriched for thymocyte progenitors as measured first by its ability to repopulate transiently the thymus of an irradiated host, and second, by its high content of cells bearing Pgp-1 (refs 10, 11), a cell-surface glycoprotein of relative molecular mass 95,000 that is present on most or all prothymocytes of the bone marrow and on fetal thymocytes29, but on only a few per cent of cells in the adult thymus10. We show here that the gene encoding the β-chain of the T-cell receptor for antigen, which is rearranged during T-cell ontogeny12–15, is predominantly in the germline configuration in these cells.
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Trowbridge, I., Lesley, J., Trotter, J. et al. Thymocyte subpopulation enriched for progenitors with an unrearranged T-cell receptor β-chain gene. Nature 315, 666–669 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1038/315666a0
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