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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Regulation of thymocyte development through CD3. I. Timepoint of ligation of CD3 epsilon determines clonal deletion or induction of developmental program.

Several recent observations suggest that successful rearrangement of the T cell receptor (TCR) beta locus induces several important events in thymocyte maturation. Allelic exclusion is achieved by interruption of further rearrangement of the beta locus, and CD4-8- interleukin (IL)-2R+ cells enter the CD4+8+IL-2R- stage. The actual molecular events regulating this important control point are unknown, but may be related to the expression of the TCR-beta locus in immature CD4-8- thymocytes. It is not clear whether maturation is induced by intracellular appearance of TCR-beta chain or by signal transduction through an immature TCR complex on the thymocyte membrane, possibly involving TCR-beta chain homodimers and CD3. Here we show that early addition of anti-CD3 mAb to fetal thymic organ cultures induces all known events associated with the acquisition of the CD4+8+ stage. Expression of CD4 and CD8 is accelerated, IL-2R alpha is downregulated, and the cells fail to produce TCR-beta, possibly based on premature cessation of beta gene rearrangement. Upon stimulation with anti-CD3 antibodies, we see calcium mobilization in 15% of all CD4-8- thymocytes with no detectable surface TCR expression. These results suggest that functional CD3 is expressed on immature thymocytes at very low concentrations before the appearance of a complete TCR-beta chain. Ligation of CD3 at this stage may mimic the maturation signal normally generated by the immature TCR-beta homodimer-CD3 complex. The results are consistent with the notion that acquisition of the CD4+8+ stage involves signal transduction through an immature TCR complex. Later in thymocyte development, ligation of CD3 results in deletion of CD4+8+ cells. Thus, signal transduction through CD3 may result in entirely different cellular responses, depending on the stage of thymocyte differentiation. These results suggest an involvement of CD3 as a link in signal transduction for at least two different decision points in the development of a thymocyte.[1]


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