The presence in athymic nude mice of precursor T cells with self-recognition specificity for either H-2 K/D or H-2 I region determinants was investigated. Chimeras were constructed of lethally irradiated parental mice receiving a mixture of F1 nude mouse (6-8 wk old) spleen and bone marrow cells. The donor inoculum was deliberately not subjected to any T cell depletion procedure, so that any potential major histocompatibility complex-committed precursor T cells were allowed to differentiate and expand in the normal parental recipients. 3 mo after reconstitution, the chimeras were immunized with several protein antigens in complete Freund's adjuvant in the footpads and their purified draining lymph node T cells tested 10 d later for ability to recognize antigen on antigen-presenting cells of either parental haplotype. Also, their spleen and lymph node cells were tested for ability to generate a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response to trinitrophenyl (TNP)-modified stimulator cells of either parental haplotype. It was demonstrated that T cell proliferative responses of these F1(nude)----parent chimeras were restricted solely to recognizing parental host I region determinants as self and expressed the Ir gene phenotype of the host. In contrast, CTL responses could be generated (in the presence of interleukin 2) to TNP-modified stimulator cells of either parental haplotype. Thus these results indicate that nude mice which do have CTL with self-specificity for K/D region determinants lack proliferating T cells with self-specificity for I region determinants. These results provide evidence for the concepts that development of the I region-restricted T cell repertoire is strictly an intrathymically determined event and that young nude mice lack the unique thymic elements responsible for education of I region-restricted T cells.

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