Lineage divergence at the first TCR-dependent checkpoint: preferential γδ and impaired αβ T cell development in nonobese diabetic mice

Ni Feng, Patricia Vegh, Ellen V Rothenberg, Mary A Yui
Journal of Immunology 2011 January 15, 186 (2): 826-37
The first TCR-dependent checkpoint in the thymus determines αβ versus γδ T lineage fate and sets the stage for later T cell differentiation decisions. We had previously shown that early T cells in NOD mice that are unable to rearrange a TCR exhibit a defect in checkpoint enforcement at this stage. To determine if T cell progenitors from wild-type NOD mice also exhibit cell-autonomous defects in development, we investigated their differentiation in the Notch-ligand-presenting OP9-DL1 coculture system, as well as by analysis of T cell development in vivo. Cultured CD4 and CD8 double-negative cells from NOD mice exhibited major defects in the generation of CD4 and CD8 double-positive αβ T cells, whereas γδ T cell development from bipotent precursors was enhanced. Limiting dilution and single-cell experiments show that the divergent effects on αβ and γδ T cell development did not spring from biased lineage choice but from increased proliferation of γδ T cells and impaired accumulation of αβ T lineage double-positive cells. In vivo, NOD early T cell subsets in the thymus also show characteristics indicative of defective β-selection, and peripheral αβ T cells are poorly established in mixed bone marrow chimeras, contrasting with strong γδ T as well as B cell repopulation. Thus, NOD T cell precursors reveal divergent, lineage-specific differentiation abnormalities in vitro and in vivo from the first TCR-dependent developmental choice point, which may have consequences for subsequent lineage decisions and effector functions.

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