A threshold for central T cell tolerance to an inducible serum protein.
We report an inducible system of self Ag expression that examines the relationship between serum protein levels and central T cell tolerance. This transgenic approach is based on tetracycline-regulated expression of a secreted form of hen egg lysozyme, tagged with a murine hemoglobin (Hb) epitope. In the absence of the tetracycline-regulated transactivator, serum levels of the chimeric protein are extremely low (< or = 0.1 ng/ml) and the mice show partial tolerance to both Hb(64-76) and lysozyme epitopes. In the presence of the transactivator, expression increases to 1.5 ng/ml and the mice are completely tolerant. Partial tolerance was further investigated by crossing these mice to strains expressing transgenic TCRs. At the lowest Ag levels, 3.L2tg T cells (specific for Hb(64-76)/I-E(k)) escape the thymus and approximately 10% of CD4(+) splenocytes express the 3.L2 TCR. In contrast, 3A9 T cells (specific for hen egg lysozyme(46-61)/I-A(k)) are completely eliminated by negative selection. These data define a tolerogenic threshold for negative selection of Ag-specific T cells by circulating self proteins that are 100-fold more sensitive than previously demonstrated. They suggest that partial tolerance at extremely low levels of self Ag exposure is the result of a restricted repertoire of responding T cells, rather than a simple reduction in precursor frequency; tolerogenic thresholds are T cell specific.
Haribhai, D; Engle, D; Meyer, M; Donermeyer, D; White, JM; Williams, CB
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