Programmed cell death of T cells signaled by the T cell receptor and the alpha 3 domain of class I MHC

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Science  07 Jun 1991:
Vol. 252, Issue 5011, pp. 1424-1427
DOI: 10.1126/science.1828618


As well as being activated or rendered unresponsive, mature T lymphocytes can be deleted, depending on the signals received by the cell. Deletion by programmed cell death (apoptosis) is triggered if a T cell that has received a signal through its T cell receptor complex also receives a signal through the alpha 3 domain of its class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule. Such a signal can be delivered by a CD8 molecule, which recognizes the alpha 3 domain, or by an antibody to this domain. Precursors of both cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL's) and T helper cells are sensitive to this signal but become resistant at some point before completing differentiation into functioning CTL's or T helper cells. Because CTL's carry CD8, they can induce cell death in T cells that recognize them. This pathway may be important in both removal of autoreactive T cells and immunoregulation.

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