TCR gene rearrangements and expression of the pre-T cell receptor complex during human T-cell differentiation

B. Blom, M. C. Verschuren, M. H. Heemskerk, A. Q. Bakker, E. J. van Gastel-Mol, I. L. Wolvers-Tettero, J. J. van Dongen, H. Spits

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Recent studies have identified several populations of progenitor cells in the human thymus. The hematopoietic precursor activity of these populations has been determined. The most primitive human thymocytes express high levels of CD34 and lack CD1a. These cells acquire CD1a and differentiate into CD4(+)CD8(+) through CD3(-)CD4(+)CD8(-) and CD3(-)CD4(+) CD8alpha+beta- intermediate populations. The status of gene rearrangements in the various TCR loci, in particular of TCRdelta and TCRgamma, has not been analyzed in detail. In the present study we have determined the status of TCR gene rearrangements of early human postnatal thymocyte subpopulations by Southern blot analysis. Our results indicate that TCRdelta rearrangements initiate in CD34(+)CD1a- cells preceding those in the TCRgamma and TCRbeta loci that commence in CD34(+)CD1a+ cells. Furthermore, we have examined at which cellular stage TCRbeta selection occurs in humans. We analyzed expression of cytoplasmic TCRbeta and cell-surface CD3 on thymocytes that lack a mature TCRalphabeta. In addition, we overexpressed a constitutive-active mutant of p56(lckF505) by retrovirus-mediated gene transfer in sequential stages of T-cell development and analyzed the effect in a fetal thymic organ culture system. Evidence is presented that TCRbeta selection in humans is initiated at the transition of the CD3(-)CD4(+)CD8(-) into the CD4(+)CD8alpha+beta- stage
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3033-3043
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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