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Identification of a Committed T Cell Precursor Population in Adult Human Peripheral Blood

Journal of Experimental Medicine
The Rockefeller University Press
Publication Date
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  • Biology


Here, we report data concerning the discovery in adult human peripheral blood of a precursor cell population able to differentiate into CD4+CD3+αβ+ mature T cells. These cells, which represent 0.1–0.5% of total peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), express substantial levels of CD4, but lack CD3 surface expression. At a molecular level, they express the pre-T cell receptor α (pTα) gene, CD3-γ, CD-δ and CD-ε, and RAG-1 recombination enzyme and have initiated rearrangements in the T cell receptor (TCR)-β locus (D–J). Moreover, low levels of CD3ε protein, but not of TCR-β chain, can be detected in their cytoplasm. Our results suggest that CD4+CD3− cells identified in peripheral blood are different from CD3−CD4+CD8− thymocytes and may contain precursors of an extrathymic T cell differentiation pathway.

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