Demethylated CD8 gene in CD4+ T cells suggests that CD4+ cells develop from CD8+ precursors

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Science  25 Nov 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4882, pp. 1174-1176
DOI: 10.1126/science.2460926


Mature T cells and medullary thymocytes bear either the CD4 or CD8 differentiation antigen. Precursor cells in the thymus express neither CD4 nor CD8 (CD4-8-), but most cortical thymocytes are CD4+8+. Whether CD4+ and CD8+ mature T cells arise directly from CD4-8- precursors or from a CD4+8+ intermediate remains unresolved. In this study, methylation of the CD8 gene in murine T cells and thymocytes was examined. There was progressive demethylation of the CD8 gene in the thymus during the transition from CD4-8- to CD4+8+. A similar pattern of demethylation of the CD8 gene was seen in CD4+ mature T cells, suggesting previous expression of CD8 in the CD4+ lineage.

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