Journal of Theoretical Medicine
Volume 5 (2003), Issue 1, Pages 1-22

Thymic Presentation of Autoantigens and the Efficiency of Negative Selection

1Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
2Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Received 11 March 2003; Accepted 21 June 2003

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Antigen recognition by the adaptive cellular immune system is based on a diverse repertoire of antigen receptors. Since this repertoire is formed by genetic recombination, a number of receptors are autoreactive by chance, giving rise to the threat of autoimmune disease. Potentially autoreactive T lymphocytes (T cells) are rendered ineffective by various tolerance mechanisms. One of these mechanisms is negative selection, the deletion from the repertoire of immature autoreactive T cells in the thymus. The present paper shows how to assess the contribution made by negative selection relative to other tolerisation mechanisms by deducing the impact of negative selection on the T cell repertoire from the statistics of autoantigen presentation in the thymus.