A type 2 cytokine axis for thymus emigration

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  • University of Cape Town


In the thymus, stromal microenvironments support a developmental program that generates mature T cells ready for thymic exit. The cellular and molecular specialization within thymic stromal cells that enables their regulation of specific stages of thymocyte development is poorly understood. Here, we show the thymic microenvironment expresses the type 2 IL-4R complex and is functionally responsive to its known ligands, IL-4 and IL-13. Absence of IL-4Rα limits thymocyte emigration, leading to an intrathymic accumulation of mature thymocytes within medullary perivascular spaces and reduced numbers of recent thymic emigrants. Thymus transplantation shows this requirement maps to IL-4Rα expression by stromal cells, and we provide evidence that it regulates thymic exit via a process distinct from S1P-mediated migration. Finally, we reveal a cellular mechanism by which IL-4(+)IL-13(+) invariant NKT cells are necessary for IL-4Rα signaling that regulates thymic exit. Collectively, we define a new axis for thymic emigration involving stimulation of the thymic microenvironment via type 2 cytokines from innate T cells.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2205–2216
JournalThe Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2017

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