Fibronectin-adherent (FNR+) thymocytes are enriched for immature (CD4-8-) and large (CD4+8+) cells, and depleted of mature (CD4-8+ and CD4+8-) and nonmature small (CD4+8+) cells. Among purified CD4-8- thymocytes, cells with the surface marker J11d and the IL-2 receptor, which can give rise to all other thymocyte subsets, showed selective attachment to fibronectin. Analysis of FNR+ thymocytes showed that such cells are greatly enriched for cells in cycle. Additionally, FNR+ cells expressed low levels of T cell receptor. These results suggest a role for the fibronectin receptor during the early, proliferative phase of thymocyte differentiation. The data suggest that loss of the fibronectin receptor is a hallmark of cells that have become committed either to functional maturation or to programmed cell death.

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