Measuring thymic clonal deletion at the population level

Elise R. Breed, Masashi Watanabe, Kristin A Hogquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Clonal deletion of T cells specific for self-antigens in the thymus has been widely studied, primarily by approaches that focus on a single receptor (using TCR transgenes) or a single specificity (using peptide-MHC tetramers). However, less is known about clonal deletion at the population level. In this article, we report an assay that measures cleaved caspase 3 to define clonal deletion at the population level. This assay distinguishes clonal deletion from apoptotic events caused by neglect and approximates the anatomic site of deletion using CCR7. This approach showed that 78% of clonal deletion events occur in the cortex in mice. Medullary deletion events were detected at both the semimature and mature stages, although mature events were associated with failed regulatory T cell induction. Using this assay, we showed that bone marrow–derived APC drive approximately half of deletion events at both stages. We also found that both cortical and medullary deletion rely heavily on CD28 costimulation. These findings demonstrate a useful strategy for studying clonal deletion within the polyclonal repertoire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3226-3233
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants R37 AI39560 and P01 AI35296 (to K.A.H.) and F30 AI131483, T32 AI007313, and T32 GM008244 (to E.R.B.).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.


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