Developmental biology of T cell receptors

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Science  26 May 1989:
Vol. 244, Issue 4907, pp. 943-950
DOI: 10.1126/science.2658058


T cell receptors are the antigen-recognizing elements found on the effector cells of the immune system. Two isotypes have been discovered, TCR-gamma delta and TCR-alpha beta, which appear in that order during ontogeny. The maturation of prothymocytes that colonize the thymic rudiment at defined gestational stages occurs principally within the thymus, although some evidence for extrathymic maturation also exists. The maturation process includes the rearrangement and expression of the T cell receptor genes. Determination of these mechanisms, the lineages of the cells, and the subsequent thymic selection that results in self-tolerance is the central problem in developmental immunology and is important for the understanding of autoimmune diseases.

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