Normal mouse liver contains prominent subsets of CD4+8- and CD4-8- T cell receptor (TCR)-alpha/beta+ cells with intermediate TCR levels. We show here that these cells express the natural killer (NK)1.1 surface antigen and have a restricted TCRV beta repertoire that is highly skewed to V beta 7 and V beta 8. Surprisingly, both CD4+8- and CD4-8- subsets of NK1.1+TCR-alpha/beta+ cells are absent in the liver of beta 2-microglobulin deficient mice, which do not express major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I or "class I-like" molecules. Analysis of reciprocal radiation bone marrow chimeras established with beta 2-microglobulin deficient and wild-type mice demonstrates that MHC class I expression on radiosensitive (presumably hematopoietic) cells is required for the development of NK1.1+TCR-alpha/beta+ cells in the liver. In the liver of MHC class II deficient mice, the CD4+8- and CD4-8- subsets of NK1.1+TCR-alpha/beta+ cells develop normally. Collectively our data suggest that NK1.1+TCR-alpha/beta+ cells in liver require interaction with a MHC class I-related ligand on hematopoietic cells for their development. This unusual property of liver T cells is shared by a subset of CD4-8-NK1.1+TCR-alpha/beta+ thymocytes, suggesting a common lineage independent of the mainstream of T cell development.

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