Positive selection of antigen-specific T cells in thymus by restricting MHC molecules

Nature. 1988 Oct 20;335(6192):730-3. doi: 10.1038/335730a0.


Thymus-derived lymphocytes (T cells) recognize antigen in the context of class I or class II molecules encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) by virtue of the heterodimeric alpha beta T-cell receptor (TCR). CD4 and CD8 molecules expressed on the surface of T cells bind to nonpolymorphic portions of class II and class I MHC molecules and assist the TCR in binding and possibly in signalling. The analysis of T-cell development in TCR transgenic mice has shown that the CD4/CD8 phenotype of T cells is determined by the interaction of the alpha beta TCR expressed on immature CD4+8+ thymocytes with polymorphic domains of thymic MHC molecules in the absence of nominal antigen. Here we provide direct evidence that positive selection of antigen-specific, class I MHC-restricted CD4-8+ T cells in the thymus requires the specific interaction of the alpha beta TCR with the restricting class I MHC molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation / immunology
  • Female
  • H-2 Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Radiation Chimera
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • H-2 Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell