The thymus medulla fosters generation of natural Treg cells, invariant γδ T Cells and invariant NKT cells : what we learn from intrathymic migration

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The organization of the thymus into distinct cortical and medullary regions enables it to control the step-wise migration and development of immature T-cell precursors. Such a process provides access to specialized cortical and medullary thymic epithelial cells at defined stages of maturation, ensuring the generation of self-tolerant and MHC-restricted conventional CD4+ and CD8+ αβ T cells. The migratory cues and stromal cell requirements that regulate the development of conventional αβ T cells have been well studied. However, the thymus also fosters the generation of several immunoregulatory T-cell populations that form key components of both innate and adaptive immune responses. These include Foxp3+ natural regulatory T cells, invariant γδ T cells, and CD1d-restricted invariant natural killer T cells (iNKT cells). While less is known about the intrathymic requirements of these non-conventional T cells, recent studies have highlighted the importance of the thymus medulla in their development. Here we review recent findings on the mechanisms controlling the intrathymic migration of distinct T-cell subsets, and relate this to knowledge of the microenvironmental requirements of these cells.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-660
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • Chemokine, iNKT cells, Natural Treg cell, Thymus, Thymic medulla, γδ T cells