Requirement for diverse, low-abundance peptides in positive selection of T cells
Whether a single major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-bound peptide can drive the positive selection of large numbers of T cells has been a controversial issue. A diverse population of self peptides was shown to be essential for the in vivo development of CD4 T cells. Mice in which all but 5 percent of MHC class II molecules were bound by a single peptide had wild-type numbers of CD4 T cells. However, when the diversity within this 5 percent was lost, CD4 T cell development was impaired. Blocking the major peptide-MHC complex in thymus organ culture had no effect on T cell development, indicating that positive selection occurred on the diverse peptides present at low levels. This requirement for peptide diversity indicates that the interaction between self peptides and T cell receptors during positive selection is highly specific.