We analyzed the phenotype and V beta-T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire, together with interleukin 7 receptor (IL-7R) expression in unfractionated thymocytes stimulated in vitro with IL-7. This culture system results in a specific proliferation of mature thymocytes belonging to the CD3+CD4-, CD4+8-, and CD4-8+ subsets. IL-7 induced a preferential expansion of V beta 8.2+CD4-8- and V beta 8.2+CD4-8- thymocytes. This phenomenon is not observed in beta 2-microglobulin-deficient mice, showing that a fraction of CD4+8- thymocytes, enriched in V beta 8.2+ cells, is selected by class I molecules in normal mice, as are a large proportion of CD4-8- alpha beta TCR+ thymocytes. Our findings also establish that IL-7 plays a major role in the expansion of rare thymocyte subsets, which could exert important functions in inflammatory and immune responses.

This content is only available as a PDF.