Pathogen recognition by T cells is dependent on their exquisite specificity for self-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules presenting a bound peptide. Although this specificity results from positive and negative selection of developing T cells in the thymus, the relative contribution of these two processes remains controversial To address the relation between the selecting peptide-MHC complex and the specificity of mature T cells, we generated transgenic mice that express a single peptide-MHC class I complex. We demonstrate that positive selection of CD8 T cells in these mice results in an MHC-specific repertoire. Although selection on a single complex is peptide promiscuous, mature T cells are highly peptide specific. Thus, positive selection imparts MHC and peptide specificity on the peripheral CD8 T cell repertoire.
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