Selecting and maintaining a diverse T-cell repertoire

Nature. 1999 Nov 18;402(6759):255-62. doi: 10.1038/46218.


To provide a T-cell population that will respond promptly to foreign antigen, the immune system looks inward, using the variety of self-antigens to select and maintain a diverse repertoire of receptors. A protective immune system must include a T-lymphocyte population that is poised to respond to foreign antigenic peptides presented by self-major histocompatibility complex molecules. As the organism cannot predict the precise pathogen-derived antigens that will be encountered, the system uses the diverse array of self-peptides bound to self-major histocompatibility complex molecules, not only to select a receptor repertoire in the thymus, but also to keep naïve T cells alive and 'ready for action' in the periphery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Genetic Variation
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Leukopoiesis
  • Lymphatic System / cytology
  • Lymphatic System / immunology
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Self Tolerance
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology


  • Autoantigens
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell