Autoimmune MRL-lpr/lpr (lpr) mice develop severe lymphadenopathy, characterized by the accumulation of alpha beta-T cells with CD4-8- double negative (DN) phenotype, at the onset of disease. We previously demonstrated that the liver is a major site for the proliferation of such DN alpha beta-T cells. Herein, we further demonstrate that a large proportion of alpha beta-T cells in the liver and other organs, except the thymus, of lpr mice have unique properties, such as DN phenotype, relatively dull TCR intensity, a preponderance of V beta 8+ cells, and Pgp-1 expression. Interestingly, alpha beta-T cells in the liver of normal mice were found to consist of T cells with intermediate intensity of TCR (i.e., brighter than thymic dull TCR and lower than thymic bright TCR) as well as with bright intensity of TCR in the immunofluorescence test. These hepatic alpha beta-T cells with intermediate TCR in normal mice were found to have properties similar to those of alpha beta-T cells in lpr mice. These results suggest that abnormal alpha beta-T cells in lpr mice are a counterpart of normal T cells in the liver. An abnormal expansion of such T cells in the liver might be fundamental to the pathogenesis involved in these autoimmune mice.

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