Thymocytes undergo a complex series of phenotypic and genotypic changes during maturation in the thymus. This dynamic process involves qualitative and quantitative changes in the expression of certain cell surface differentiation antigens. In this study, we have directly examined the relationship of T cell differentiation antigen expression on normal human thymocytes by using multi-color immunofluorescence and multi-parameter flow cytometric analysis. The results from these studies have provided new insights into the complexity of antigen expression during thymic maturation and suggest that the CD3/T cell antigen receptor complex is expressed early in the development of thymocytes. Direct quantitative measurements of antigen expression by using multi-parameter flow cytometric analysis also suggest quantitative co-regulation of certain antigens (e.g., CD3 and CD5) during thymic maturation.

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