Antigen and glucocorticoid hormone (GC) induce positive selection of DP thymocytes in a TcR transgenic mouse model

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Thymocyte maturation in the thymus is controlled by stromal and humoral components. Among the humoral regulators locally produced glucocorticoids (GCs) seem to have a key role in the positive selection of thymocytes. Our previous studies have shown that the administration of GCs or the stimulation through the CD3 complex can induce apoptosis of double positive (DP) cells, but the combined presence of these stimuli induces positive selection. In this work our aim was to investigate the effects of antigen exposure and synthetic GC hormone (dexamethasone, DX) administration on the selection processes of DP cells in TcR transgenic mice. In our model, AND - pigeon cytochrome c (PCC)-specific I-Ek (MHC-II) restricted Vβ3, Vα11 TcR expressing transgenic mice were treated with PCC, with high or low dose DX, or with PCC and DX together, followed by the analysis of total thymocyte numbers, thymocyte composition, with regard to their CD69, Vβ3 and Annexin V expression. The administration of PCC and/or DX for 2 days resulted in a decreased DP cell number and a significantly increased CD4 SP cell ratio. However, in both cases the total thymocyte numbers decreased. CD69 expression increased on both DP and CD4 SP cells after PCC and/or DX treatments. We found that after DX or combined treatment, the percentage of Annexin V positive cells increased. The ratio of Vβ3 TcR bearing DP thymocytes showed no change after DX or PCC administrations alone, but it decreased significantly after combined treatment. MHC-II bound PCC peptides in the presence of GCs enhanced the maturation of Vβ3+ DP cells into CD4 SP stage, therefore, the Vβ3- cells remained mostly in the DP immature stage. These data indicate that both antigen and low dose GC alone are capable of inducing positive selection of DP cells, but together they gave a stronger effect in promoting positive selection. From these we conclude that GCs influence the maturation and selection processes of thymocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalImmunology letters
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 15 2003



  • Glucocorticoids
  • Positive selection
  • TcR transgenic mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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