Fluorescein-coupled peanut agglutinin (PNA) has been used at the single-cell level to study mouse lymphocyte subpopulations. PNA not only binds to most thymocytes, as has already been shown by other authors, but also binds to a small fraction of peripheral lymphocytes that are all T cells (θs+Ig-) or null cells (θ-Ig-). Most PNA-positive thymocytes are sensitive to in vivo corticosteroids and irradiation (450 rads) treatments. Conversely, the positive spleen cells (5% of total spleen lymphocytes) are essentially resistant to corticosteroids and irradiation. Study of PNA binding during ontogenesis shows the occurrence of PNA-positive cells in the fetal liver before thymus constitution and in the very beginning of embryonic thymus and spleen development. These data indicate that PNA is a marker of early T cell subpopulations but that there are probably several distinct subsets of PNA-positive T cells.

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