Activated CTL can kill any cell to which they bind or by which they are bound. This observation has been used to determine whether alloreactive CTL can recognize cells bearing self-MHC. When activated by their specific targets, 19 CTL clones of 4 different specificities and origins killed bystander targets bearing syngeneic but not third-party MHC antigens. Using target cells derived from MHC-recombinant animals, syngeneic bystander killing was shown to be restricted to a single self MHC-encoded molecule. These results provide the first clear demonstration that T cells, or more precisely CTL, are capable of self recognition in the absence of their specific antigen. Our findings support the model that T cell repertoire selection occurs as a result of positive selection during maturation in the thymus of precursor cells whose antigen receptors have low but real affinity for self-MHC.

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