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Developmental Immunology
Volume 5 (1996), Issue 1, Pages 1-15

Cross-Linking the TCR Complex Induces Apoptosis in CD4+8+ Thymocytes in the Presence of Cyclosporin A

The University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Science Park-Research Division, P.O. Box 389, Smithville, Texas 78957, USA

Received 1 December 1995; Accepted 14 February 1996

Copyright © 1996 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although it is generally agreed that TCR ligation is a minimal requirement for negative selection in the CD+8+ double-positive (DP) thymocyte subset, the costimulatory requirements and specific signaling events necessary to induce apoptosis are not well defined. We have explored the consequences of cross-linking CD3/TCR complexes on thymocytes from H-Y TCR transgenic (Tg) mice. In agreement with previous reports, we demonstrate that culturing DP thymocytes with plate-bound anti-TCR antibody induces downregulation of CD4 and CD8 and upregulation of CD69 expression. Nevertheless, the activated cells did not undergo apoptosis, as determined by viable cell recoveries and by quantitation of DNA fragmentation using the TUNEL assay. However, specific depletion of the DP subset occurred within 24 hr when thymocytes were incubated in the presence of both anti-TCR and the immunosuppressant cyclosporin A (CsA). CsA also induced depletion of anti-CD3 stimulated normal DP thymocytes. Using mice homozygous for the lpr or gld mutation, we also have shown that Fas/Fas ligand interactions are not involved in the CsA-induced death of TCR-stimulated DP thymocytes. These data verify that TCR cross-linking alone is insufficient to induce apoptosis of DP thymocytes and further suggest that TCR stimulation activates a CsA-sensitive protective pathway that interferes with signaling events leading to apoptosis in DP thymocytes.