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      Thymic Expression of the Pancreatic Endocrine Hormones

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          The thymus plays a central role in the selection of T lymphocytes that are tolerant to ‘self’ antigens and responsive to foreign pathogens. We and others have reported the expression of the pancreatic endocrine hormones, preproinsulin, proglucagon, prosomatostatin and propancreatic polypeptide in the human and mouse thymus. While mRNA expression is very low there is evidence for the presence of the translated product. In addition, we have investigated the cell types responsible for expression. In the thymus, hormone expression is enriched in the antigen-presenting cell population. Interestingly, while proglucagon, prosomatostatin and propancreatic polypeptide appear to be expressed in a macrophage population, preproinsulin expression was restricted to dendritic cells which are more potent antigen-presenting cells. The functional significance of the endogenous expression of insulin in the thymus has been indirectly investigated using transgenic models in which the transgene is introduced by the rat insulin promoter. The data suggest that thymic expression of the transgene is critical in the induction of T-cell tolerance to the transgene in the periphery. Taken together, the evidence suggests that the low-level pancreatic hormone expression in the thymus may be involved in central tolerance to proteins of restricted expression.

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          Thymic dendritic cells and T cells develop simultaneously in the thymus from a common precursor population.

          Dendritic cells, a minor cell population in lymphoid tissues, are specialized for presentation of antigenic peptides to T lymphocytes. Thymic dendritic cells are involved in the deletion of self-reactive T lymphocytes. Although all dendritic cells are ultimately of bone-marrow origin, it has not been clear whether thymic dendritic cells are produced in the adult thymus from a precursor cell or whether they migrate there preformed from the periphery. Recently we isolated from adult mouse thymus a population of early T precursors that could still form B lymphocytes, but not erythroid or myeloid cells, when transferred intravenously. Here we show that these thymic lymphoid precursor cells, as well as bone-marrow haematopoietic stem cells, are able to form both dendritic cells and T-cell progeny when transferred into an irradiated thymus. Such linked development may ensure that developing T cells are negatively selected predominantly by self antigens presented on newly formed thymic dendritic cells.
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            Targeted Expression of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Class II Molecules Demonstrates that Dendritic Cells Can Induce Negative but Not Positive Selection of Thymocytes In Vivo

            It is well established that lymphoid dendritic cells (DC) play an important role in the immune system. Beside their role as potent inducers of primary T cell responses, DC seem to play a crucial part as major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II+ “interdigitating cells” in the thymus during thymocyte development. Thymic DC have been implicated in tolerance induction and also by some authors in inducing major histocompatibility complex restriction of thymocytes. Most of our knowledge about thymic DC was obtained using highly invasive and manipulatory experimental protocols such as thymus reaggregation cultures, suspension cultures, thymus grafting, and bone marrow reconstitution experiments. The DC used in those studies had to go through extensive isolation procedures or were cultured with recombinant growth factors. Since the functions of DC after these in vitro manipulations have been reported to be not identical to those of DC in vivo, we intended to establish a system that would allow us to investigate DC function avoiding artificial interferences due to handling. Here we present a transgenic mouse model in which we targeted gene expression specifically to DC. Using the CD11c promoter we expressed MHC class II I-E molecules specifically on DC of all tissues, but not on other cell types. We report that I-E expression on thymic DC is sufficient to negatively select I-E reactive CD4+ T cells, and to a less complete extent, CD8+ T cells. In contrast, if only DC expressed I-E in a class II–deficient background, positive selection of CD4+ T cells could not be observed. Thus negative, but not positive, selection events can be induced by DC in vivo.
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              Human type 1 diabetes and the insulin gene: principles of mapping polygenes.

              We review the strategy used to identify a susceptibility locus (IDDM2) for type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes mellitus. As type 1 diabetes is becoming the paradigm for dissecting multifactorial disease genetics, the approach described provides important general guidelines for positional cloning of human disease polygenes. Main topics include: (a) historical conspectus of the mapping and identification of IDDM2--a critical survey of the work leading up to the conclusion that IDDM2 most likely corresponds to allelic variation at the insulin gene minisatellite (VNTR) locus; (b) the nature of allelic (length and sequence) variation at the VNTR locus; (c) gene interactions and disease pathogenesis; (d) mechanism of action of the INS VNTR in type 1 diabetes--insulin gene expression, parent-of-origin effects (genomic imprinting); and (e) summary and future prospects--alleles of the insulin VNTR that are protective for type 1 diabetes appear to encode susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                April 1999
                08 January 1999
                : 6
                : 1-2
                : 108-114
                CNRS URA 1461, Université Paris V, Hôpital Necker, Paris, France
                26370 Neuroimmunomodulation 1999;6:108–114
                © 1999 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                References: 48, Pages: 7


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