The third function of the thymus

Immunol Today. 2000 Feb;21(2):95-9. doi: 10.1016/s0167-5699(99)01559-5.


Nonresponsiveness of mammalian T cells to self-antigens is not totally accounted for in terms of clonal deletion, T-cell anergy and T-cell ignorance: studies have shown that the T-cell repertoire of healthy individuals contains cells with the potential to cause autoimmune disease. This article describes a T-cell-mediated mechanism that prevents the realization of this potential and indicates how its failure can lead to the development of autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / physiology*


  • CD4 Antigens
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2