Peripheral deletion of mature CD8+ antigen-specific T cells after in vivo exposure to male antigen

L. Zhang, D. R. Martin, W. P. Fung-Leung, H. S. Teh, R. G. Miller

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84 Scopus citations


It has been well established that T cell tolerance to self Ag occurs primarily via clonal deletion of immature thymocytes in the thymus. Evidence also exists that there are additional mechanisms operative on mature T cells for establishing and maintaining tolerance in the periphery. To follow the fate of mature Ag-specific T cells in vivo, we used female transgenic mice, which contain a large population of male H-Y Ag-specific T cells that can be identified by immunostaining with mAb directed against CD8 and the transgenic TCR. H-Y Ag was introduced into these mice by injecting Ag-bearing male lymphocytes using conditions known to induce CTL precursor response reduction. The number of Ag-reactive CD8+ transgenic T cells in the periphery started to decrease after 2 days of in vivo exposure to male Ag. Decline was maximum (up to 80% of total) by 7 days, and stayed at this level for at least 6 wk. CD4+ cells and those CD8+ cells that did not carry the transgenic TCR were not affected. Most or all of the remaining Ag-reactive CD8+ cells in the periphery were fully responsive when stimulated by male Ag in vitro. Maturation of transgenic T cells in the thymus of injected mice remained the same as that of control animals. Our data provide direct evidence that mature Ag-reactive CD8+ cells are susceptible to clonal deletion in the periphery when exposed to the Ag in vivo. These findings suggest the presence of two types of APC in the periphery: stimulatory APC (e.g., macrophages and dendritic cells) required for initiating an active immune response; and functionally deleting APC (or veto cells) capable of deleting mature T lymphocytes that recognize Ag presented on their surface. Functionally deleting APC that present self Ag to peripheral T cells may provide a fail-safe mechanism against autoreactive cells that escaped deletion during differentiation in the thymus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3740-3745
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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