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Critical Role For The Common Cytokine Receptor Gamma Chain In Intrathymic And Peripheral T Cell Selection.

J P DiSanto, D Guy-Grand, A Fisher, A Tarakhovsky

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The common cytokine receptor gamma chain (gammac), which is a functional subunit of the receptors for interleukins (IL)-2, -4, -7, -9, and -15, plays an important role in lymphoid development. Inactivation of this molecule in mice leads to abnormal T cell lymphopoiesis characterized by thymic hypoplasia and reduced numbers of peripheral T cells. To determine whether T cell development in the absence of gammac is associated with alterations of intrathymic and peripheral T cell selection, we have analyzed gammac-deficient mice made transgenic for the male-specific T cell receptor (TCR) HY (HY/gammac- mice). In HY/gammac- male mice, negative selection of autoreactive thymocytes was not diminished; however, peripheral T cells expressing transgenic TCR-alpha and -beta chains (TCR-alphaT/betaT) were absent, and extrathymic T cell development was completely abrogated. In HY/gammac- female mice, the expression of the transgenic TCR partially reversed the profound thymic hypoplasia observed in nontransgenic gammac- mice, generating increased numbers of thymocytes in all subsets, particularly the TCR-alphaT/betaT CD8+ single-positive thymocytes. Despite efficient positive selection, however, naive CD8+ TCR-alphaT/betaT T cells were severely reduced in the peripheral lymphoid organs of HY/gammac- female mice. These results not only underscore the indispensible role of gammac in thymocyte development, but also demonstrate the critical role of gammac in the maintenance and/or expansion of peripheral T cell pools.