The murine epidermis contains a subpopulation of bone marrow-derived lymphocytes that have a dendritic morphology and that express Thy-1 and T3 cell-surface antigens but not other markers (L3T4 or Lyt-2) characteristic of mature peripheral T lymphocytes. An alternative type of T cell receptor was earlier identified on a subpopulation of murine thymocytes with a similar phenotype (T3+, L3T4-, Lyt-2-), but not on peripheral murine T lymphocytes. Two independently derived Thy-1+, L3T4-, and Lyt-2- dendritic cell lines of epidermal origin that express a T3-associated disulfide-linked heterodimer composed of a 34-kilodalton gamma-chain and 46-kilodalton partner (the delta chain) have now been identified. Analysis of N-linked glycosylation revealed that this receptor is similar to that detected on thymocytes. These results demonstrate that Thy-1+ dendritic epidermal cell lines can express gamma delta T cell receptors in vitro and suggest that Thy-1+ dendritic epidermal cells express such receptors in vivo. The localization of these gamma delta T cell receptor-expressing cells in the epidermis may be of importance for understanding the function of these receptors.

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