Invariant NKT Cells and Control of the Thymus Medulla

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Most αβ T cells that form in the thymus are generated during mainstream conventional thymocyte development and involve the generation and selection of a diverse αβ TCR repertoire that recognizes self-peptide/MHC complexes. Additionally, the thymus also supports the production of T cell subsets that express αβ TCRs but display unique developmental and functional features distinct from conventional αβ T cells. These include multiple lineages of CD1d-restricted invariant NKT (iNKT) cells that express an invariant αβ TCR, branch off from mainstream thymocytes at the CD4+CD8+ stage, and are potent producers of polarizing cytokines. Importantly, and despite their differences, iNKT cells and conventional αβ T cells share common requirements for thymic epithelial microenvironments during their development. Moreover, emerging evidence suggests that constitutive cytokine production by iNKT cells influences both conventional thymocyte development and the intrathymic formation of additional innate CD8+ αβ T cells with memory-like properties. In this article, we review evidence for an intrathymic innate lymphocyte network in which iNKT cells play key roles in multiple aspects of thymus function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3333-3339
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
Early online date7 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018


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