Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 20454452
PLoS ONE 2010;5(4):e10238
Recombination activating gene (RAG)-deficient TCR (T Cell Receptor) Tg (transgenic) mice are routinely used as sources of monoclonal T cells. We found that after the transfer of T cells from a RAG-2-deficient 5CC7 TCR Tg mice into allogeneic hosts we recovered a population of T cells expressing diverse alphabeta-TCRs. In fact, in the thymus and spleen of the 5CC7 RAG-2-deficient donor mice, we detected rare T cells expressing non-Tg TCR chains. Similar observations were obtained using T cells from two other TCR transgenic strains, namely RAG-2-deficient aHY and RAG-1-deficient OT-1 mice. The sequences of the endogenous TCR transcripts suggested that gene recombination could occur, albeit quite inefficiently, in the RAG-deficient mice we used. In agreement, we evidenced rare TCR Valpha and Vbeta-chain transcripts in non-Tg RAG-2-deficient mice. Since in these non-Tg RAG-deficient mice no mature T cells could ever be found, our findings suggested a role for the TCR Tg in rescuing rare recombined endogenous chains. Robust T-cell activation by the allogeneic environment favored the selection and expansion of the rare cells expressing endogenous TCRs. Potential mechanisms involved in the recombination of the endogenous TCR chains in the different strains of RAG-deficient mice used, and in particular the possibility of RAG-1 hypomorphism due to an incomplete knocking out procedure, are discussed. Our findings have important experimental implications for studies using TCR-Tg RAG-deficient cells as monoclonal T cell populations.