Activation of protein-tyrosine kinases (PTKs) is required for signal transduction during T cell activation, although the pathway used during thymic selection is unknown. An in vitro system was established in which T cell receptor transgenic thymocytes underwent clonal deletion in response to peptide antigen. The effects of two PTK-specific inhibitors, herbimycin A and genistein, on the clonal deletion of immature thymocytes and the activation of mature thymocytes were examined. Clonal deletion occurred while T cell activation was inhibited and when no p56lck activity was evident. Thus, p56 lck is not required for the antigen-stimulated step of clonal deletion of immature thymocytes, and negative selection proceeds via a distinct pathway.
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