Positive and negative selection of T cells in T-cell receptor transgenic mice expressing a bcl-2 transgene
Strasser, A.; Harris, A.W.; von Boehmer, H.; Cory, S.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 91(4): 1376-1380
ISSN/ISBN: 0027-8424 PMID: 8108419 DOI: 10.2307/2364103
To explore the role of bcl-2 in T-cell development, a bcl-2 transgene was introduced into mice expressing a T-cell receptor (TCR) transgene encoding reactivity for the mouse male antigen HY presented by the H-2D-b class I antigen of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). Normal thymic development is contingent on the ability of immature thymocytes to interact with self-MHC molecules presented by thymic stroma (positive selection). Thus, thymocyte numbers are low in female anti-HY TCR transgenic mice with a nonselecting (H-2D-d) background. Expression of bcl-2 inhibited the death of nonselectable thymocytes since, strikingly, female H-2D-d bcl-2/TCR transgenic mice developed normal numbers of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes, although these did not mature further into functional T cells. Hence, TCR-MHC interaction may induce positive selection through two signals, one which saves cells from death by increasing Bcl-2 synthesis and another which promotes maturation. Male H-2D-b anti-HY TCR transgenic mice normally have a very small thymus, due to deletion of the self-reactive T cells. Expression of bcl-2 reduced the efficiency of deletion, since bcl-2/TCR transgenic male mice accumulated 4- to 6-fold more thymocytes than did TCR transgenic male littermates. Anti-HY TCR-expressing cells were also more numerous in the peripheral lymphoid tissues, but these cells expressed abnormally low levels of CD8 coreceptor and were not responsive to the HY antigen. Thus, although bcl-2 expression hampers the deletion of immature self-reactive cells in the thymus, self-tolerance is maintained.