We investigated the phenotypic changes accompanying maturation of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes in the presence of thymic stomal cells in vitro. Many of the features that are characteristic of positive selection in vivo, such as an ordered down-regulation of CD4 or CD8 together with up-regulation of the TCR-alpha beta complex, also occurred in vitro. Transient expression of CD69 was also observed, together with activation of IL-2 and IL-4 cytokine genes, providing further evidence that positive selection in vitro involves a pattern of gene regulation comparable to that seen in vivo.
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