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“Promiscuous” expression of self-antigens in the thymus

Deletion or re-programming of T cells upon encounter of self-antigens during intrathymic development is a cornerstone of immunological self-tolerance. We found that the range of self-antigens expressed in the thymus is unexpectedly broad. This so called “promiscuous” intrathymic expression of otherwise strictly tissue-specific proteins is confined to a particular cell type, medullary epithelial cells. We aim to elucidate the mechanistic basis for this phenomenon (e.g. specific induction versus de-repression of particular genes) and the consequences for particular T cell specificities (deletion versus induction of anergy/regulatory function).