Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 12516554
Eur. J. Immunol. 2002 Dec;32(12):3651-6
N region diversity in antigen receptors is a developmentally regulated process in B and T lymphocytes, which correlates with the differential expression of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT). To precisely determine the onset of TdT gene activation during T cell differentiation and thymic ontogeny, TdT expression was directly detected at the cellular level by in situ hybridization and TdT function was assessed by analyzing the distribution of N additions in alpha and beta TCR genes at early stages of development. Even though TdT transcripts were undetectable at birth, substantial N additions were observed in ValphaJalpha junctions and 3 days later in VbetaDbetaJbeta junctions, indicating that TdT expression could be induced in immature thymocytes much earlier than expected. Indeed low TdT expression level was found in TN3/4 and DP from fetal day 17, suggesting that the onset of TdT expression occurs simultaneously in both populations and may depend on microenvironmental cues. Moreover significant increase in the proportion of thymocytes expressing high levels of TdT mRNA during the first week after birth without a similar increase in the level of N diversity suggests that TdT expression and TdT function in the generation of N diversity are not strictly correlated.