Expression of genes of the T-cell antigen receptor complex in precursor thymocytes

Abstract

The antigen receptor on Tlymphocytes has recently been characterized as a heterodimeric, transmembrane glycoprotein consisting of disulphide-linkedα(acidic) and β (basic) subunits of relative molecular mass (Mr) 40,000–45,000 each. The genes encoding these proteins have been cloned1–4 and shown to resemble immunoglobulin genes in both overall structure and the requirement for DNA rearrangement before expression5–11. In humans, three additional proteins, termed the T3 complex, are found associated with the clonotypic receptor, and a role for T3 in receptor expression has been proposed12–15. Despite these recent advances in characterizing the antigen receptor complex, there is as yet little understanding of T-cell maturation, particularly the stage of T-cell ontogeny at which the genes encoding the antigen receptor and its associated structures are expressed and assembled. In the adult, stem cells destined to differentiate into T cells arise in the bone marrow and migrate to the thymus16, where T-cell precursors proliferate, develop a preference for recognizing antigens in the context of self MHC molecules17,18and are released to the periphery. Recently, cells that have the properties of immature murine thymocytes have been isolated and described19,20. We have now analysed these cells with a series of molecular probes and we describe three distinct patterns of T-cell antigen receptor gene rearrangements in developing thymocytes.

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Samelson, L., Lindsten, T., Fowlkes, B. et al. Expression of genes of the T-cell antigen receptor complex in precursor thymocytes. Nature 315, 765–768 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1038/315765a0

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