Thymus-derived lymphocytes (T cells) have two outstanding characteristics that distinguish them from other lymphocytes: (a) they express two specificities, one for self-antigens, the major transplantation antigens (H) coded by the major histocompatibility gene complex (MHC), and a second specificity for foreign antigenic determinants. (b) T cells must undergo differentiation or maturation in the thymus (1, 2). Apparently, an important step in T-cell differentiation in the thymus is the selection of T-cells' restriction specificity for self-H. This interpretation stems from experiments with chimeras formed by lethally irradiating parental type mice and reconstituting them with F(1) stem cells: the maturing F(1) T cells expressed predominantly the restriction specificities for the recipient parental MHC type (3-8). Alternatively, adult F(1) mice that were thymectomized, lethally irradiated, reconstituted with bone marrow, and then engrafted with a parental thymus had T cells that were restricted predominantly to the thymus donors' H-2 (4-8).
The present study first extends these observations to nude mice that are born without a thymus and therefore do not develop functional T cells and second, attempts to study the possibility that suppression may be responsible for the apparent influence of the radioresistant portion of the thymus on T- cell restriction specificities.
We tested the immunocompetence and restriction specificities expressed by lymphocytes from F(1) nude mice reconstituted with both parental thymus grafts; our expectation was that suppression of the expression of T-cell restriction specificity should result either in complete immunoincompetence or emergence of only one of the two possible sets of restriction specificities. Nude F(1)mice that simultaneously received thymus gratis from both parents developed spleen cells restricted to both parental H-2 types. These results are compatible with the idea that the thymus' influence on T- cell restriction is via positive selection rather than by suppression.