Allelic exclusion of antigen receptor loci is a fundamental mechanism of immunological self-tolerance. Incomplete allelic exclusion leads to dual T-cell receptor (TCR) expression and can allow developing autoreactive αβ T lymphocytes to escape clonal deletion. Because allelic exclusion at the TCR-β locus is more stringent than at the TCR-α locus, dual TCR-β expression has not been considered a likely contributor to autoimmunity. We show here that incomplete TCR-β allelic exclusion permits developing thymocytes bearing the autoreactive, transgene-encoded KRN TCR to be positively selected more efficiently, thereby accelerating the onset of spontaneous autoimmune arthritis. Our findings highlight dual TCR-β expression as a mechanism that can enhance the maturation of autoreactive pathogenic T cells and lead to more rapid development of autoimmune disease.
- Allelic exclusion
- Dual TCR