A small subset of T cells of mature phenotype express the alpha/beta T cell receptor, but not CD4 and CD8 coreceptors (alpha/beta double-negative [DN] cells). The repertoire of V beta usage of alpha/beta DN cells is strongly biased towards V beta 8 expression, suggesting that the formation of the population is subject to selection. We now report that deficiency of class I expression leads to a strongly depressed frequency of V beta 8+ DN cells, but has little effect on V beta 8- DN cells. Studies of hematopoietic chimeras between class I+ and class I- mice demonstrated that expression of class I molecules by hematopoietic cells is necessary and sufficient for selection of most V beta 8 DN cells. The lack of a role for class I expression by thymic epithelial cells suggests that the mechanism of selection of these cells by class I differs significantly from the mechanism of selection of conventional T cells. Models to explain the selection of these cells as well as their possible function in vivo are discussed.

This content is only available as a PDF.