We demonstrated in the present study that with bacterial stimulation, an increased number of alpha/beta T cells proliferated in the liver of mice and that even T cells bearing self-reactive T cell receptor (TCR) (or forbidden T cell clones), as estimated by anti-V beta monoclonal antibodies in conjunction with immunofluorescence tests, appeared in the liver and, to some extent, in the periphery. The majority (greater than 80%) of forbidden clones induced had double-negative CD4-8-phenotype. In a syngeneic mixed lymphocyte reaction, these T cells appear to be self-reactive. Such forbidden clones and normal T cells in the liver showed a two-peak pattern of TCR expression, which consisted of alpha/beta TCR dull and bright positive cells, as seen in the thymus. A systematic analysis of TCR staining patterns in the various organs was then carried out. T cells from not only the thymus but also the liver had the two-peak pattern of alpha/beta TCR, whereas all of the other peripheral lymphoid organs had a single-peak pattern of TCR. However, T cells in the liver were not comprised of double-positive CD4+8+ cells, which predominantly reside in the thymus. The present results therefore suggest that T cell proliferation in the liver might reflect a major extrathymic pathway for T cell differentiation and that this hepatic pathway has the ability to produce T cells bearing self-reactive TCR under bacterial stimulation, probably due to the lack of a double-positive stage for negative selection.

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