Double-negative CD4-CD8-T cells (DNT) have been shown to be the major population of T cells responsible for the massive lymphadenopathy associated with the early onset of the lupus-like syndrome in mice bearing the lpr gene. Previously, we demonstrated that these cells do not proliferate in the peripheral lymphoid organs that they invade; furthermore, we showed that a wide range of CD4 Ag expression was observed on lymph node CD4+ T cells. In this study, we used an in vivo transfer system to analyze the progeny of CD4+ T cells from B6-lpr/lpr mice. Purified CD4+ T cells injected into B6 nude mice are able to generate DNT cells; furthermore, phenotypic and functional characterizations of the DNT cells generated in vivo show that they share the same properties as DNT cells from B6-lpr/lpr mice. We also show that, after in vitro bromodeoxyuridine incorporation, only CD4+ cells cycle. From these studies, we conclude that the lymphoproliferation occurs at the CD4+ stage and that down-regulation of this Ag probably is followed by arrest of the cell cycle.

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