The T cell antigen receptor is likely to play a role in both positive and negative selection in the thymus. Three populations of thymocytes can be distinguished by the level of expression of the CD3-alpha/beta-chain heterodimer of the T cell antigen receptor (CD3/Ti alpha/beta) complex. Cells which fail to express these receptors or express low levels of receptors are contained in a population of thymocytes which express low levels of the CD5 antigen and are predominantly CD4+/CD8+. Thus, these cells appear to be relatively immature phenotypically. In contrast, the cells which express high levels of CD3/Ti alpha/beta co-express high levels of CD5 and are predominantly contained in the more mature single positive cells which express either CD4 or CD8. With the calcium-sensitive dye, Indo-1, and immunofluorescence, we demonstrated that, despite the relative phenotypic immaturity of cells which express low levels of CD3/Ti alpha/beta, these antigen receptors are able to mediate transmembrane signaling when stimulated with CD3 monoclonal antibodies. Although increases in calcium were observed in these CD3/Ti alpha/beta-low expressing cells in response to anti-CD3, no proliferative response was observed, even in the presence of phorbol myristate acetate. Proliferative responses were observed in the more mature cells which express high levels of CD3/Ti alpha/beta. These results suggest that, rather than a defect in the functional capability of the antigen receptor complex to mediate transmembrane signaling events, cellular responses to signals generated by the antigen receptor may differ at various stages of thymocyte development.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.