The autoimmune regulator (Aire) plays a critical role in central tolerance by promoting the display of tissue-specific antigens in the thymus. To study the influence of Aire on thymic selection in a physiological setting, we used tetramer reagents to detect autoreactive T cells specific for the Aire-dependent tissue-specific antigen interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP), in the polyclonal repertoire. Two class II tetramer reagents were designed to identify T cells specific for two different peptide epitopes of IRBP. Analyses of the polyclonal T-cell repertoire showed a high frequency of activated T cells specific for both IRBP tetramers in Aire-/- mice, but not in Aire+/+ mice. Surprisingly, although one tetramer-binding T-cell population was efficiently deleted in the thymus in an Aire-dependent manner, the second tetramer-binding population was not deleted and could be detected in both the Aire-/- and Aire+/+ T-cell repertoires. We found that Aire-dependent thymic deletion of IRBP-specific T cells relies on intercellular transfer of IRBP between thymic stroma and bone marrow-derived antigen-presenting cells. Furthermore, our data suggest that Aire-mediated deletion relies not only on thymic expression of IRBP, but also on proper antigen processing and presentation of IRBP by thymic antigen-presenting cells.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - May 15 2012|