The role of the IL-2-IL-2-R pathway in thymocyte differentiation in vivo is unknown. We have examined fetal thymocyte development in vivo, under conditions where all IL-2-R were saturated from day 13 of gestation with anti-IL-2-R mAbs that were previously shown to render mature T cells unable to respond to IL-2. This produced a dramatic change in the composition of developing T cells: thymocytes from day 1 neonatal mice born to anti-IL-2-R-treated mothers did not contain CD4+ or CD8+ single-positive cell populations. In addition, no generation of surface TCR beta chain-expressing T cells or antigen-reactive functional T cells occurred in treated mice. These data suggest that IL-2-IL-2-R interactions provide signals crucial to in vivo intrathymic development of mature T cells.

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