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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Gene placement and competition control T cell receptor γ variable region gene rearrangement

  • Author(s): Xiong, N
  • Zhang, L
  • Kang, C
  • Raulet, DH
  • et al.

The production of distinct sets of T cell receptor (TCR) γδ+ T cells occurs in an ordered fashion in thymic development. The Vγ3 and Vγ4 genes, located downstream in the TCRγ Cγ1 gene cluster, are expressed by the earliest waves of developing TCRγδ+ T cells in the fetal thymus, destined for intraepithelial locations. Upstream Vγ2 and Vγ5 genes are expressed in later waves in the adult and constitute most TCRγδ + T cells in secondary lymphoid tissue. This developmental pattern is caused in part by a preference for rearrangements of the downstream Vγ3 and Vγ4 genes in the early fetal stage, which switches to a preference for rearrangements of the upstream Vγ2 and Vγ5 gene rearrangements in the adult. Our gene targeting studies show that the downstream Vγ genes rearrange preferentially in the early fetal thymus because of their downstream location, independent of promoter or recombination signal sequences and unrelated to the extent of germline transcription. Remarkably, gene deletion studies show that the downstream Vγ genes competitively inhibit upstream Vγ rearrangements at the fetal stage. These data provide a mechanism for specialization of the fetal thymus for the production of T cells expressing specific Vγ genes. JEM © The Rockefeller University Press.

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