The continuous proliferating bone marrow clones C4-77, C4-86, and C4-95 express low levels of Thy-1 and Ly-1 surface antigens, but no detectable surface antigens normally present on thymocytes, peripheral mature T lymphocytes, cells of the B lymphocyte or myeloid lineages. They contain the T cell antigen receptor genes alpha, beta, and the T cell-specific gene gamma in the germline configuration, and they express functional receptors for IL-3 and nonfunctional receptors for IL-2. The C4 clones are able to home and undergo differentiation in the thymus of sublethally irradiated mice and give rise in vivo to phenotypically and functionally mature peripheral T lymphocytes displaying several antigen specificities. In vitro 5-Azacytidine induces the C4 clones to express Lyt-2 and L3T4 T cell differentiation antigens, and renders them amenable to be switched from IL-3 to IL-2 dependence. However, the C4 clones seem incapable of giving rise to B lymphocytes either in vivo or in vitro. They self-renew in vitro in the presence of IL-3 every 12-14 h. We conclude that the C4 clones represent cells at the earliest stage of T cell development, i.e., Pro-T lymphocytes.

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