During T cell development in the thymus, the expression of thymic shared antigen-1 (TSA-1)/stem cell antigen-2 (Sca-2), a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored differentiation antigen, is developmentally regulated. The expression level of TSA-1 is the highest in most immature CD4- CD8- thymocytes, high in CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes, but barely detectable in mature CD4+ CD8- or CD4- CD8- thymocytes and peripheral T cells. We have previously shown that surface TSA-1 expression in peripheral T cells is induced upon activation and that anti-TSA-1 mAb inhibits the T cell receptor (TCR) signaling pathway in activated T cells. In the present study, we have analyzed a role of TSA-1 in thymic selection events, especially in TCR-mediated apoptosis. In in vitro experiments, anti-TSA-1 blocked anti-CD3-induced cell death of T cell hybridomas. When anti-TSA-1 was injected into newborn mice in vivo together with anti-CD3 epsilon or anti-TCR-beta, TCR/CD3-mediated apoptosis of thymocytes was almost completely blocked. The blockade of apoptosis was defined by the inhibition of, first, the decrease in total number of thymocytes; second, the decrease in percentages of CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes; and third, the induction of DNA fragmentation. However, anti-TSA-1 did not block either steroid- or radiation-induced apoptosis, indicating that a signal via TSA-1 does not inhibit a common pathway of thymocyte apoptosis. Since TCR-mediated apoptosis is pivotal in thymic ontogeny, these results suggest that TSA-1/Sca-2 is an important cell surface molecule regulating the fate of a developing T cell.

This content is only available as a PDF.