Specific tolerance to discordant xenogeneic donors can be achieved by grafting of fetal pig thymic and liver tissue (FP THY/LIV) to T cell and NK cell-depleted, thymectomized (ATX) mice. Mouse CD4+ T cells develop in FP THY/LIV grafts, and demonstrate remarkably normal immune function, including host-restricted responses to keyhole limpet hemocyanin. We have therefore studied the role of host MHC class II in the development of mouse T cells in FP THY/LIV grafts by comparing their development in ATX MHC class II-deficient (IIKO) and wild-type (H-2b) mice. Mouse CD4+ T cells repopulated T/NK cell-depleted, ATX IIKO mice after grafting with FP THY/LIV, indicating that pig MHC can positively select mouse CD4 cells. Expression of TCR, MHC class I, Qa-2, heat-stable Ag, and CD45RB among double-positive and CD4 single-positive (SP) graft thymocytes in wild-type recipients was similar to that in normal mouse thymi, whereas CD4 SP thymocytes in grafts of IIKO mice showed increased Qa-2 and decreased heat-stable Ag expression, suggesting an increased level of maturity. Double-positive cells in grafts of IIKO mice also expressed higher than normal levels of Qa-2. Deletion within the grafts of Vbeta3+, Vbeta5.1/5.2+, and Vbeta11+ but not Vbeta6+, Vbeta7+, or Vbeta8.1/8.2+ mouse CD4 SP thymocytes in ATX IIKO mice demonstrated that swine leukocyte Ag participates in negative selection of the T cell repertoire. Therefore, porcine MHC mediates positive and negative selection of mouse thymocytes, but host class II MHC molecules also regulate thymocyte maturation in xenogeneic thymic grafts.

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