Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice can be transplanted successfully with human fetal liver and thymus (SCID-hu mice). Precursor cells derived from the fetal liver differentiate in the thymus and migrate into the blood as mature T cells. In the present paper, the peripheral T cell compartment of such mice was studied. Peripheral WBC were activated by PHA and cultured in the presence of irradiated human feeder cells. The resultant cell population consisted exclusively of human CD1- CD2+ CD3+ CD7+ T lymphocytes; up to 4% of the T cells expressed the TCR gamma delta, whereas 95 to 100% were TCR alpha beta +. The CD4bright (42 to 66%) and CD8bright (30 to 54%) populations coexpressed variable but low levels of CD8 and CD4, respectively. The T cell cultures from the SCID-hu mice did not display reactivity towards the autologous human EBV-transformed B cell lines (B-LCL). On the other hand, these human T cells proliferated and were cytotoxic against allogeneic human B-LCL. T cell clones were established from cultured SCID-hu T cells. All T cell clones were TCR alpha beta + CD3+ CD2+; 61% of the clones were CD4+ CD8-, 27% were CD8+ CD4-, 11% were CD8+ CD4lo, and 2% were CD4+ CD8lo. None of these clones recognized the autologous B-LCL established from the fetal human donor. Fourteen of 100 T cell clones had specific alloreactivity, as tested on a panel of five B-LCL. Of these 14, two CD8+ CD4lo and two CD8+ CD4- clones were cytotoxic and did not proliferate in response to specific stimulator cells. Furthermore, two CD4+ CD8lo and eight CD4+ CD8- clones proliferated specifically in response to alloantigens. In conclusion, the peripheral human T cells of SCID-hu animals are functional and their TCR repertoire is polyclonal, alloreactive, and devoid of self-reactive cells. Therefore, the SCID-hu mouse can be a suitable model for the study of alloreactivity and allotolerance in vivo, as well as for the study of negative selection in the human thymus.

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