The role of thymic MHC class II-bearing cells in the selection of the TCR repertoire has been investigated in allogeneic radiation bone marrow chimeras. Positive selection of mature CD4+ T lymphocytes expressing the V beta 6+ TCR domain was found to depend upon radioresistant (presumably epithelial) I-E+ thymic cells. On the other hand, negative selection of CD4+ V beta 6+ cells (which was additionally dependent upon expression of the Mls-1a gene product) was controlled by a radiosensitive I-E+ thymic component (most likely dendritic cells). These data argue in favor of a compartmentalization of positive and negative selection events during T cell development.

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