In the thymus, interactions between immature thymocytes and thymic epithelial cells (TECs) regulate the development and selection of self-tolerant MHC-restricted T cells. Despite the importance of cortical (cTEC) and medullary (mTEC) thymic epithelial cells in fostering T cell production, events in TEC development are still unclear. Although precursor-product relationships during mTEC development have been reported, and some genetic regulators of mTEC development have been identified, stages in cTEC development occurring downstream of recently identified bipotent cTEC/mTEC progenitors remain poorly defined. In this study, we combine analysis of differentiation, proliferation, and gene expression of TECs in the murine thymus, that has enabled us to identify cTEC progenitors, define multiple stages in cTEC development, and identify novel checkpoints in development of the cTEC lineage. We show an essential requirement for FoxN1 in the initial development of cTEC from bipotent progenitors, and demonstrate a stage-specific requirement for CD4(-)8(-) thymocytes in later stages of cTEC development. Collectively, our data establish a program of cTEC development that should provide insight into the formation and function of the thymic cortex for T cell development.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Immunology|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2009|