Elevated proliferating cell nuclear antigen levels in immature thymocytes: Dissociation from cell cycle progression

L. A. Turka, J. Gratiot-Deans, D. Keim, R. Bandukwala, J. Green, J. Strahler, S. M. Hanash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Entry into and progression through the cell cycle is associated with a tightly regulated program of gene expression in mature T cells. One such gene product, proliferating cell nuclear Ag (PCNA), is the auxiliary protein of DNA polymerase δ, and is induced during late G1 and early S phase after stimulation of resting (G0) cells. Blockade of PCNA production has been found to inhibit cell division suggesting that PCNA plays an important role in cell proliferation. The extent to which PCNA and other proliferation-related gene products are similarly regulated in thymocytes has been largely undetermined. Here, we report that immature double positive (CD4+CD8+) thymocytes express high levels of PCNA protein and mRNA relative to mature single positive (CD4+CD8- or CD4-CD8+) thymocytes or peripheral blood T cells. Elevation of PCNA expression among double positive thymocytes is not the result of increased numbers of cycling cells in this subpopulation, being specifically observed in double positive thymocytes with normal diploid DNA content and resting (G0) levels of RNA. Unlike mature thymocytes and T cells, mitogenic stimulation did not induce an increase in PCNA expression in double positive thymocytes. These data indicate that immature thymocytes express high levels of PCNA in the absence of cell cycle progression, thus providing evidence for differential regulation of proliferation related pathways during lymphoid development. Altered expression patterns of these genes in immature vs mature thymocytes may contribute to the process of thymic selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2746-2752
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1993


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