The T cell populations present in normal murine bone marrow have not been previously analyzed in detail, mainly because of their relative rarity. In order to permit such analyses, bone marrow T cells were enriched by depleting Mac1-positive cells, which constitute 65 to 90% of bone marrow cells (BMC), and then studied by two-color flow cytometry. Analysis of the remaining cells revealed that the T cell profile of adult murine bone marrow is markedly different from that of other lymphoid organs. A very high proportion of bone marrow CD3+ cells (approximately one-third) are CD4-CD8-. CD3+CD4-CD8- cells are much more concentrated among BMC T cells than among thymocytes or splenic T cells, suggesting that bone marrow may be either a site of extrathymic TCR gene rearrangement, or a major site to which such cells home from the thymus. The expression of NK1.1 was also evaluated on Mac1-depleted BMC populations. Surprisingly, up to 39% of alpha beta TCR+ BMC were found to express NK1.1. Most alpha beta TCR+NK1.1+ BMC also expressed CD4 or CD8. NK1.1+ alpha beta TCR+ cells represented a much greater proportion of BMC T cells than of other lymphoid (splenocyte or thymocyte) T cell populations. Mac1-depleted BMC of nude mice contained very few cells with this phenotype. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that NK1.1+ alpha beta TCR+ cells are generated primarily in the thymus of normal animals and migrate preferentially to bone marrow, where they may function as regulatory elements in hematopoiesis.

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