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The TCR-associated CD3 complex consists of four subunits, i.e. CD3 gamma, delta, epsilon and zeta, which are expressed very early in T cell development prior to the expression of the TCR and the pre-TCR alpha chain. It is unclear whether the expression of each CD3 protein is independent of, or is influenced by, other CD3 subunits. To study whether CD3 epsilon regulates expression of CD3 gamma and delta genes, we generated a strain of CD3 epsilon-deficient mice termed CD3 epsilon(delta P/delta P) (epsilon(delta P)), in which the promoter of CD3E was disrupted, and subsequently reconstituted these mice with a CD3 epsilon transgene. In the epsilon(delta P) mice, T cell development is arrested at the double-negative stage and targeting the CD3 epsilon gene caused severe inhibition of CD3 gamma and delta gene expression. Introduction of the CD3 epsilon transgene did not restore CD3 gamma and delta expression. However, a very small fraction of prothymocytes that expressed CD3 gamma and delta was rescued upon reconstitution of the CD3 epsilon transgene. Remarkably, this rescue led to a very efficient differentiation and maturation of thymocytes, resulting in a significant T cell population in the periphery. These results demonstrate that CD3 epsilon does not regulate expression of CD3 gamma and delta genes, and underscore the capacity of each prothymocyte to give rise to a large number of mature peripheral T cells.

Original publication




Journal article


Int Immunol

Publication Date





1777 - 1788


Animals, CD3 Complex, Exons, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Macromolecular Substances, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mutagenesis, Insertional, Promoter Regions, Genetic, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta, Stem Cells, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, Thymus Gland, Transgenes