The monolayer of a thymic stromal cell clone termed MRL104.8a induced the differentiation of adult double negative (DN) thymocytes (CD3-4-8-) through a CD3-4-8+ intermediate into CD3- (or dull) 4+8+ stages. DN thymocytes were separated into three subpopulations depending on their cell-surface expression of Pgp-1 and IL-2R, namely, Pgp-1+IL-2R-, Pgp-1-IL-2R+, and Pgp-1-IL-2R-. The present study investigated the requirements of the MRL104.8a monolayer for inducing the differentiation of these DN thymocyte subpopulations. The following were revealed: i) the MRL104.8a monolayer failed to induce the differentiation of a Pgp-1+IL-2R- subpopulation; ii) whereas a Pgp-1-IL-2R+ subpopulation did not express either CD4 or CD8 Ag when cultured in medium, culturing this subpopulation on the thymic stromal cell monolayers resulted in the expression of CD8 but not CD4 Ag; and iii) a Pgp-1-IL-2R- DN subpopulation obtained through less extensive treatments with anti-CD4 and anti-CD8 antibodies in the presence of C before sorting procedures spontaneously differentiated into double positive cells in medium. In contrast, most of DN cells with the same phenotype obtained through extensive anti-CD4 and -CD8 treatments before sorting failed to express CD4 and/or CD8 Ag in medium but could differentiate through a CD3-4-8+ into more mature stages only when they were cultured on the thymic stromal monolayer. These results indicate differential requirements of thymic stromal cells for the differentiation of various DN subpopulations with qualitatively distinct phenotypes and different magnitudes (very low vs almost zero levels) of CD4/CD8 expression.

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