CD4+Foxp3+ Treg are essential for immune homeostasis and maintenance of self-tolerance. They are produced in the thymus and also generated de novo in the periphery in a TGFβ dependent manner. Foxp3+ Treg are also required to achieve tolerance to transplanted tissues when induced by co receptor or co stimulation blockade. Using TCR transgenic mice to avoid issues of autoimmune pathology, we show that Foxp3 expression is both necessary and sufficient for tissue tolerance by coreceptor blockade. Moreover, the known need in tolerance induction for TGFβ signalling to T cells can wholly be explained by its role in induction of Foxp3, as such signalling proved dispensable for the suppressive process. We analysed the relative contribution of TGFβ and Foxp3 to the transcriptome of TGFβ-induced Treg and showed that TGFβ elicited a large set of down-regulated signature genes. The number of genes uniquely modulated due to the influence of Foxp3 alone was surprisingly limited. Thus, despite the large genetic influence of TGFβ exposure on iTreg, the crucial Foxp3-influenced signature independent of TGFβ is small. Retroviral mediated conditional nuclear expression of Foxp3 proved sufficient to confer transplant-suppressive potency on CD4+ T cells, and was lost once nuclear Foxp3 expression was extinguished. These data support a dual role for TGFβ and Foxp3 in induced tolerance, where TGFβ stimulates Foxp3 expression, whose sustained expression is then associated with acquisition of tolerance.
Adoptive transfer of thymus-derived natural regulatory T-cells (nTregs) effectively suppresses disease in murine models of autoimmunity and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). TGFβ induces Foxp3 expression and suppressive function in stimulated murine CD4+25- T cells, and these induced Treg (iTregs), like nTreg, suppress auto- and allo-reactivity in vivo. However, while TGFβ induces Foxp3 expression in stimulated human T-cells, the expanded cells lack suppressor cell function. Here we show that Rapamycin (Rapa) enhances TGFβ-dependent Foxp3 expression and induces a potent suppressor function in naïve (CD4+25-45RA+) T cells. Rapa/TGFβ iTregs are anergic, express CD25 at levels higher than expanded nTregs, and few cells secrete IL-2, IFNγ or IL-17 even after PMA and Ionomycin stimulation in vitro. Unlike other published methods of inducing Treg function, Rapa/TGFβ induces suppressive function even in the presence of memory CD4+ T-cells. A single apheresis unit of blood yields an average ~240×109 (range ~70–560×109) iTregs from CD4+25- T-cells in ≤ 2 weeks of culture. Most importantly, Rapa/TGFβ iTregs suppress disease in a xenogeneic model of GVHD. This study opens the door for iTreg cellular therapy for human diseases.
GVHD; Treg; Foxp3; Rapamycin; TGFβ
Differentiation of immature CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes into mature CD4+ or CD8+ T cells occurs within the thymus and is dependent upon expression of antigen receptor complexes (T cell receptor [TCR]) containing clonotypic alpha/beta proteins. We have recently found that CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes express low levels of surface TCR because of limitations placed on TCR assembly by the instability of nascent TCR-alpha proteins within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of immature thymocytes. Because TCR-alpha/beta expression increases during development, a molecular mechanism must exist for increasing the number of assembled TCR complexes present in immature CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes that have been signaled to differentiate into mature T cells, although no such mechanism has yet been described. In the current report we have examined the molecular consequences of intracellular signals generated by engagement of surface TCR complexes on immature CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes. Isolated TCR engagement generated signals that increased TCR-alpha RNA levels and increased synthesis of TCR-alpha proteins, which, in turn, significantly increased assembly of complete TCR- alpha/beta complexes in CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes. Increased TCR-alpha protein levels in TCR-signaled CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes was the result of increased synthesis and not increased stability of TCR-alpha proteins, indicating that TCR engagement compensates for, but does not correct, the inherent instability of TCR-alpha proteins in the ER of immature thymocytes. Consistent with the delivery by TCR engagement of a positive selection signal, TCR engagement also increased CD5 expression, decreased RAG-1 expression, and decreased CD4/CD8 coreceptor expression in immature CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes. These data identify amplified TCR-alpha expression as an initial response of immature CD4+ CD8+ thymocytes to TCR-mediated positive selection signals and provide a molecular basis for increased surface TCR density on developing thymocytes undergoing selection events within the thymus.
Developing thymocytes undergo a rigorous selection process to ensure that the mature T cell population expresses a T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire that can functionally interact with major histocompatibility complexes (MHC). Over 90% of thymocytes fail this selection process and die. A small number of macrophages within the thymus are responsible for clearing the large number of dying thymocytes that must be continuously cleared. We studied the capacity of thymic macrophages to clear apoptotic cells under acute circumstances. This was done by synchronously inducing cell death in the thymus and then monitoring the clearance of apoptotic thymocytes. Interestingly, acute cell death was shown to recruit large numbers of CD11b+ cells into the thymus. In the absence of a minor CSF-1 dependent population of macrophages, the recruitment of these CD11b+ cells into the thymus was greatly reduced and the clearance of apoptotic cells was disrupted. To assess a possible role for the CD11b+ cells in the clearance of apoptotic cells, we analyzed mice deficient for eosinophils and mice with defective trafficking of neutrophils. Failure to attract either eosinophils or neutrophils to the thymus resulted in the impaired clearance of apoptotic cells. These results suggested that there is crosstalk between cells of the innate immune system that is necessary for maximizing the efficiency of apoptotic cell removal.
T-cell differentiation in the thymus generates a peripheral repertoire of mature T cells that mounts strong responses to foreign antigens but is largely unresponsive to self-antigens. This state of specific immunological tolerance to self-components involves both central and peripheral mechanisms. Here we review the process whereby many T cells with potential reactivity for self-antigens are eliminated in the thymus during early T-cell differentiation. This process of central tolerance (negative selection) reflects apoptosis and is a consequence of immature T cells receiving strong intracellular signalling through T-cell receptor (TCR) recognition of peptides bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Central tolerance occurs mainly in the medullary region of the thymus and depends upon contact with peptide-MHC complexes expressed on bone-marrow-derived antigen-presenting cells (APCs); whether tolerance also occurs in the cortex is still controversial. Tolerance induction requires a combination of TCR ligation and co-stimulatory signals. Co-stimulation reflects interaction between complementary molecules on T cells and APCs and probably involves multiple molecules acting in consort, which may account for why deletion of individual molecules with known or potential co-stimulatory function has little or no effect on central tolerance. The range of self-antigens that induce central tolerance is considerable and, via low-level expression in the thymus, may also include tissue-specific antigens; central tolerance to these latter antigens, however, is likely to be limited to high-affinity T cells, leaving low-affinity cells to escape. Tolerance to alloantigens and the possibility of using central tolerance to promote acceptance of allografts are discussed.
During T cell development in the thymus, pre–T cell receptor (TCR) complexes signal CD4− CD8− (double negative [DN]) thymocytes to differentiate into CD4+ CD8+ (double positive [DP]) thymocytes, and they generate such signals without apparent ligand engagements. Although ligand-independent signaling is unusual and might be unique to the pre-TCR, it is possible that other TCR complexes such as αβ TCR or αγ TCR might also be able to signal the DN to DP transition in the absence of ligand engagement if they were expressed on DN thymocytes. Although αγ TCR complexes efficiently signal DN thymocyte differentiation, it is not yet certain if αβ TCR complexes are also capable of signaling DN thymocyte differentiation, nor is it certain if such signaling is dependent upon ligand engagement. This study has addressed these questions by expressing defined αβ TCR transgenes in recombination activating gene 2−/− pre-Tα−/− double deficient mice. In such double deficient mice, the only antigen receptors that can be expressed are those encoded by the αβ TCR transgenes. In this way, this study definitively demonstrates that αβ TCR can in fact signal the DN to DP transition. In addition, this study demonstrates that transgenic αβ TCRs signal the DN to DP transition even in the absence of their specific MHC–peptide ligands.
DN to DP transition; αβ TCR transgene; ligand-independent signaling; pre-TCR/αγ TCR
The majority (>95%) of thymocytes undergo apoptosis during selection in the thymus. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how apoptosis of thymocytes that are not positively selected occurs, however it is unknown whether thymocytes die purely by “neglect” or whether signaling through a cell surface receptor initiates an apoptotic pathway. We have previously demonstrated that on double positive (DP) thymocytes the ligation of CD8 in the absence of TCR engagement results in apoptosis and have postulated this is a mechanism to remove thymocytes that have failed positive selection. On mature single positive (SP) T cells CD8 acts as a co-receptor to augment signaling through the T cell receptor (TCR) that is dependent on the phosphorylation of the adaptor protein, Linker for Activation of T cells (LAT). Here we show that during CD8-mediated apoptosis of DP thymocytes there is an increase in the association of CD8 with LAT and an increase in LAT tyrosine phosphorylation. Decreasing LAT expression and mutation of tyrosine residues of LAT reduced apoptosis upon crosslinking of CD8. Our results identify novel functions for both CD8 and LAT that are independent of TCR signal transduction and suggest a mechanism for signal transduction leading to apoptosis upon CD8 crosslinking.
Apoptosis; Thymus; CD8; LAT; Signal Transduction
Immature thymocytes undergo a selection process within the thymus based on their T cell antigen receptor (TCR) specificity that results either in their maturation into functionally competent, self-MHC–restricted T cells (positive selection) or their deletion (negative selection). The outcome of thymocyte selection is thought to be controlled by signals transduced by the TCR that vary in relation to the avidity of the TCR–ligand interaction. The TCR is composed of four distinct signal transducing subunits (CD3-γ, -δ, -ε, and ζ) that contain either one (CD3-γ, -δ, -ε) or three (-ζ) signaling motifs (ITAMs) within their intracytoplasmic domains. A possible function for multiple TCR ITAMs could be to amplify signals generated by the TCR during selection. To determine the importance of the multiple TCR-ζ chain ITAMs in thymocyte selection, transgenes encoding α/βTCRs with known specificity were bred into mice in which ζ chains lacking one or more ITAMs had been genetically substituted for endogenous ζ. A direct relationship was observed between the number of ζ chain ITAMs within the TCR complex and the efficiency of both positive and negative selection. These results reveal a role for multiple TCR ITAMs in thymocyte selection and identify a function for TCR signal amplification in formation of the T cell repertoire.
Autoimmunity occurs because central and peripheral tolerance mechanisms fail to tolerize T cells with weak self-reactivity to tissue-restricted antigen.
Central and peripheral tolerance prevent autoimmunity by deleting the most aggressive CD8+ T cells but they spare cells that react weakly to tissue-restricted antigen (TRA). To reveal the functional characteristics of these spared cells, we generated a transgenic mouse expressing the TCR of a TRA-specific T cell that had escaped negative selection. Interestingly, the isolated TCR matches the affinity/avidity threshold for negatively selecting T cells, and when developing transgenic cells are exposed to their TRA in the thymus, only a fraction of them are eliminated but significant numbers enter the periphery. In contrast to high avidity cells, low avidity T cells persist in the antigen-positive periphery with no signs of anergy, unresponsiveness, or prior activation. Upon activation during an infection they cause autoimmunity and form memory cells. Unexpectedly, peptide ligands that are weaker in stimulating the transgenic T cells than the thymic threshold ligand also induce profound activation in the periphery. Thus, the peripheral T cell activation threshold during an infection is below that of negative selection for TRA. These results demonstrate the existence of a level of self-reactivity to TRA to which the thymus confers no protection and illustrate that organ damage can occur without genetic predisposition to autoimmunity.
T cell development occurs in the thymus and is critically dependent on productive TCRβ rearrangement and pre-TCR expression in DN3 cells. The requirement for pre-TCR expression results in the arrest of thymocytes at the DN3 stage (β checkpoint), which is uniquely permissive for V-DJβ recombination; only cells expressing pre-TCR survive and develop beyond the DN3 stage. In addition, the requirement for TCRβ rearrangement and pre-TCR expression enforces suppression of TCRβ rearrangement on a second allele, allelic exclusion, thus ensuring that each T cell expresses only a single TCRβ product. However, it is not known whether pre-TCR expression is essential for allelic exclusion or alternatively if allelic exclusion is enforced by developmental changes that can occur in the absence of pre-TCR. We asked if thymocytes that were differentiated without pre-TCR expression, and therefore without pause at the β checkpoint, would suppress all V-DJβ rearrangement. We previously reported that premature CD28 signaling in murine CD4−CD8− (DN) thymocytes supports differentiation of CD4+CD8+ (DP) cells in the absence of pre-TCR expression. The present study uses this model to define requirements for TCRβ rearrangement and allelic exclusion. We demonstrate that if cells exit the DN3 developmental stage before TCRβ rearrangement occurs, V-DJβ rearrangement never occurs, even in DP cells that are permissive for D-Jβ and TCRα rearrangement. These results demonstrate that pre-TCR expression is not essential for thymic differentiation to DP cells or for V-DJβ suppression. However, the requirement for pre-TCR signals and the exclusion of alternative stimuli such as CD28 enforce a developmental “pause” in early DN3 cells that is essential for productive TCRβ rearrangement to occur.
Programmed cell death plays an important role during thymocyte development, since a vast majority (97%) of mouse cortical thymocytes die in thymus, whereas only 3% of these cells are rescued from cell death and positively selected. Although it seems well established that thymocyte fate depends upon appropriate surface-expressed T cell receptor, little is known about the molecular mechanism(s) responsible for the massive thymocyte elimination that occurs in the thymus. We report here that Thy-1 is capable of triggering mouse thymocyte death in vitro through a bcl-2-resistant mechanism. We have previously shown that Thy-1 is involved in mouse thymocyte adhesion to thymic stroma through interaction with an epithelial cell ligand. To examine the Thy- 1 signaling function in thymocytes, we have mimicked its interaction with stromal cells by culturing mouse thymocytes onto tissue culture plates coated with monoclonal antibodies (mAb) directed at distinct Thy- 1 epitope regions. mAb recognizing determinants in a defined Thy-1 structural domain, but not others, were found to induce marked thymocyte apoptosis as evidenced by morphological and biochemical data. Use of a quantitative DNA dot blot assay indicated that Thy-1-mediated thymocyte apoptosis was not blocked by RNA or protein synthesis inhibitors, EGTA, or by cyclosporin A, and differed, therefore, from "activation-driven cell death". Moreover, Thy-1(+)-transfected, but not wild-type AKR1 (Thy-1-d) thymoma cells underwent apoptosis after ligation with apoptosis-inducing, Thy-1-specific mAb. In contrast to thymocytes, the latter event was inhibitable by RNA and protein synthesis inhibitors, an indication that thymocytes, but not thymoma cells, contain the molecular components necessary for Thy-1-driven apoptosis. We further showed that Thy-1-triggered thymocyte death is a developmentally regulated process operative in fetal thymocytes from day 17 of gestation, but not in peripheral T cells. Indeed, the target of apoptosis by anti-Thy-1 was found to reside mainly within the CD4+8+3- and CD4+8+3lo double positive immature thymocyte subsets. Finally, it is of major interest that Thy-1-mediated apoptosis, which was found to be readily detectable in thymocytes from bcl-2-transgenic mice, represents a thus far unique experimental system for studying bcl- 2-resistant thymocyte death mechanism(s).
Thymocytes must complete an elaborate developmental program in the thymus to ultimately generate T cells that express functional but neither harmful nor useless TCRs. Each developmental step coincides with dynamic relocation of the thymocytes between anatomically discrete thymic microenvironments, suggesting that thymocytes’ migration is tightly regulated by their developmental status. Chemokines produced by thymic stromal cells and chemokine receptors on the thymocytes play an indispensable role in guiding developing thymocytes into the different microenvironments. In addition to long-range migration, chemokines increase the thymocytes’ motility, enhancing their interaction with stromal cells. During the past several years, much progress has been made to determine the various signals that guide thymocytes on their journey within the thymus. In this review, we summarize the progress in identifying chemokines and other chemoattractant signals that direct intrathymic migration. Furthermore, we discuss the recent advances of two-photon microscopy in determining dynamic motility and interaction behavior of thymocytes within distinct compartments to provide a better understanding of the relationship between thymocyte motility and development.
Thymocytes; Thymus; Chemokines; Migration; Development; Two-photon microscopy
Positive selection of T cells is a complex developmental process generating long-lived, functionally mature CD4+CD8- and CD4-CD8+ cells from short-lived, immature CD4+CD8+ precursors. The process is initiated in the thymus by interaction of the alpha beta TCR with molecules encoded by the MHC, occurs without cell division, and involves rescue from programmed cell death (PCD), as well as induction of differentiation and maturation of selected precursors. It is unclear whether development of small, positively selected CD4+CD8+ thymocytes (characterized by up-regulated levels of TCR and CD69 molecules) depends on further interactions with MHC molecules and, if so, whether such interactions are required for survival, for maturation, or for both. The involvement of the TCR and/or CD4/CD8 coreceptors in transmitting additional signals is also unknown. We have examined these questions by analyzing survival and differentiation of early (CD4+CD8+TCRhi) and later (CD4-CD8+TCRhi) postselection stages of thymocytes from normal and bcl-2 transgenic mice expressing transgenic, class I MHC-restricted TCR, upon intrathymic transfer into recipients that lacked ligands either for both the TCR and CD8 coreceptor, or for the TCR only. The results provide direct evidence that induction of differentiation of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes by recognition of MHC molecules does not rescue them from PCD and is insufficient to activate the entire maturation program. Both processes require continual engagement of the TCR by positively selecting MHC molecules that, at least in the case of class I MHC-restricted CD4-CD8+ T cells, cannot be substituted by the engagement of coreceptor alone.
15 [correction of 1,5] deoxyspergualin (DSG) is a potent immunosuppressant whose mechanism of action is still somewhat of a mystery. We have studied the generation of lymphocytes in mice treated with this drug. The differentiation of T cells in the thymus was blocked at an important early control point: the CD4-8- --> CD4+8+ transition, known to depend on the expression of a preTCR complex that includes the variable TCR-beta, but not TCR-alpha, chain. In clear contrast, a later control point, the CD4+8+ --> CD4+8- or CD4-8+ transition, dependent on the display of a conventional alpha:beta TCR complex, appeared unaffected, as did activation of mature T cells both in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, preB cell differentiation in the bone marrow was blocked at a precisely equivalent point: the A-C --> C' transition, controlled by expression of a pre-receptor complex containing the Ig heavy, but not light, chain. Mature B cells seemed unperturbed. These findings have theoretical implications, suggesting common signaling pathways in early lymphocytes that are distinct from those employed by more mature cells, and are also of practical interest, to be considered in the design of DSG treatment protocols.
T cell differentiation relies on pre–T cell receptor (TCR) and TCR signaling events that take place at successive steps of the pathway. Here, we show that two of these T cell differentiation checkpoints are regulated by Ikaros. In the absence of Ikaros, double negative thymocytes can differentiate to the double positive stage without expression of a pre-TCR complex. Subsequent events in T cell development mediated by TCR involving transition from the double positive to the single positive stage are also regulated by Ikaros. Nonetheless, in Ikaros-deficient thymocytes, the requirement of pre-TCR expression for expansion of immature thymocytes as they progress to the double positive stage is still maintained, and the T cell malignancies that invariably arise in the thymus of Ikaros-deficient mice are dependent on either pre-TCR or TCR signaling. We conclude that Ikaros regulates T cell differentiation, selection, and homeostasis by providing signaling thresholds for pre-TCR and TCR.
thymocyte; selection; signaling; homeostasis; malignancy
Fc epsilon RI gamma (gamma) is a member of a group of related proteins (the zeta-family dimers) that function as signal-transducing components of both Fc receptors and the T cell antigen receptor (TCR). Analysis of gamma expression during fetal thymus ontogeny revealed that it is expressed in early thymocytes, before the initiation of clonotypic TCR- alpha and TCR-beta gene rearrangement but is down-regulated in most adult thymocytes. To explore a possible role for gamma in thymocyte development, we generated transgenic mice in which this protein was overexpressed at all stages of ontogeny. Overexpression of gamma inhibited the maturation of T cells as well as natural killer (NK) cells. The developmental effects were transgene dose related and correlated with markedly delayed maturation of fetal CD4-CD8- FcRII/III+ thymocytes, cells thought to include the progenitors of both T and NK cells. These results suggest that the zeta and gamma chains serve distinctive functions in thymocyte development and indicate that Fc receptor(s) may play an important role in regulating the differentiation of early progenitor cells within the thymus.
Chick-quail chimeras were used to study precursor/progeny relationships of hemopoietic stem cells (SC) that enter the embryonic thymus in waves to give rise sequentially to the TCR-1+, TCR-2+, and TCR-3+ lineages of T cells. The first wave of SC and their progeny were examined by grafting thymus from 9-d chick embryos (E9) into E3 quails. mAbs specific for chick T cell antigens were used to trace the development of T cells in the recipients. All three lineages of TCR-bearing cells were generated from the first wave of SC. The cortico-medullary transit time was several day shorter for the TCR-1 subpopulation than for the TCR-2 subpopulation, and the peripheral seeding of TCR-2 cells also occurred later in development. The duration of thymocyte production from the first wave of SC that entered the thymus was approximately 3 wk, during which gradual cortical to medullary replacement by second wave SC progeny occurred. When the latter was examined, after transplantation of E7 quail thymus into E3 chick embryos, a sequential generation pattern for the TCR-1 and TCR-2 cell progeny was not evident. Finally, recirculation of T cells to the thymus medulla was defined in this avian model.
Interleukin (IL)-7 is required for T-cell development as well as for the survival and homeostasis of mature T-cells. In the thymus, double negative (DN) CD4− CD8− thymocyte progenitor transition into double positive CD4+ CD8+ cells requires Notch and IL-7 signaling. Importantly, IL-7 seems to have a dose effect on T-cell development, and at high doses, DN progression is blocked. Naïve T-cells in the thymus, and after their exit to the periphery, are dependent on IL-7 and TCR signaling for survival. Upon antigen exposure, they proliferate and differentiate into memory T-cells. Because IL-7 intervenes at all stages of T-cell development and maintenance, it has been introduced recently into clinical trials as an immunotherapeutic agent for cancer patients (of particular note, those who had undergone T cell depleting therapy) in an attempt to increase their population sizes of CD4+ and CD8+ cells overall, and specifically of CD8+ (CD45RA+CCR7+ and/or CD27+), CD4+ (CD45RA+CD31+), and CD4+ central memory T-cells (CD45RA−CCR7+). Interestingly, IL-7 in humans induced a preferential expansion of naïve T-cells resulting in a broader T-cell repertoire than before the treatment, and this effect was independent of age. This suggests that IL-7 therapy could enhance immune responses in patients with limited naïve T-cell numbers as in aged patients or after disease-induced or iatrogenic T-cell depletion. This overview highlights the role of IL-7 on T-cells in mice and humans.
IL-7; Immunotherapy; Aging
While it is generally believed that the avidity of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) for self antigen/major histocompatibility complex (MHC) determines a thymocyte's fate, how the cell discriminates between a stimulus that causes positive selection (survival) and one that causes negative selection (death) is unknown. We have previously demonstrated that glucocorticoids are produced in the thymus, and that they antagonize deletion caused by TCR cross-linking. To examine the role of glucocorticoids during MHC-dependent selection, we examined thymocyte development in organ cultures in which corticosteroid biosynthesis was inhibited. Inhibition of glucocorticoid production in thymi from α/β-TCR transgenic mice resulted in the antigen- and MHC-specific loss of thymocytes that normally recognize self antigen/MHC with sufficient avidity to result in positive selection. Furthermore, inhibition of glucocorticoid production caused an increase in apoptosis only in CD+CD8+ thymocytes bearing transgenic TCRs that recognized self antigen/MHC. These results indicate that the balance of TCR and glucocorticoid receptor signaling influences the antigen-specific thymocyte development by allowing cells with low-to-moderate avidity for self antigen/MHC to survive.
The specificity of the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire for foreign peptide bound to self-major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules is determined in large part by positive and negative selection processes in the thymus, yet the mechanisms of these selection events remain unknown. Using in vitro organ culture of thymi isolated from mice transgenic for a TCR-alpha/beta specific for cytochrome c peptide bound to I-Ek, we analyzed the developmental timing of negative selection (deletion). On the basis of the experiments described below, we conclude that all CD4+8+ thymocytes, and only CD4+8+ thymocytes, are susceptible to negative selection mediated by the cytochrome c peptide antigen. First, we found that deletion of thymocytes resulting from addition of the cytochrome c peptide to the thymic organ cultures can occur at the earliest stage of TCR, CD4, and CD8 coexpression. Second, we found that CD4+8+ thymocytes isolated from positively selecting or nonselecting MHC haplotypes were equally efficiently deleted in vitro, suggesting that positive selection is not a prerequisite for deletion. Third, we examined the effects of TCR/ligand avidity on the developmental timing of deletion by varying the concentration of cytochrome c peptide added to the organ cultures. We detected deletion only at the CD4+8+ stage: intermediate concentrations of peptide that resulted in partial deletion of CD4+8+ cells did not eliminate the appearance of mature CD4+8- cells. Finally, we found that CD4+8- thymocytes were resistant to deletion as well as activation by peptide antigen added to the intact organ cultures. Nevertheless, the CD4+8- thymocytes isolated from the peptide-treated organ cultures responded vigorously to peptide presented by spleen cells in vitro. Thus, the T cells were tolerant of (but not anergized by) self-antigen encountered in thymic organ culture. Together, these results indicate that thymocytes susceptible to negative selection are not developmentally distinct from those susceptible to positive selection, and further, that the thymic microenvironment plays a role in regulating the outcome of TCR/ligand interactions.
TGFβ exerts a potent tumor-suppressive effect in the human colon carcinoma CBS and Moser cells. However, TGFβ can also function as a tumor promoter. The mechanisms underlying the tumor promoting effect of TGFβ is not understood. Both the CBS and Moser cells were found to express mutant (truncated) APC. Expression of this form of APC did not interfere with the tumor-suppressive function of TGFβ. However, when APC expression was knocked down in these cells, TGFβ function switched from that of tumor suppression to that of tumor promotion. TGFβ stimulated cellular invasion and anchorage-independent growth in APC knocked-down cells. Knocking down APC expression abrogated the ability of TGFβ to induce the expression of the tumor suppressor E-cadherin and the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor p21/Waf1. TGFβ now stimulated the constitutive TCF transcriptional activation activity associated with the β-catenin/Wnt pathway in the APC knocked-down cells. Thus, the level of APC expression determined the type of TGFβ function in these human colon carcinoma cells.
TGFβ; tumor promotion; tumor suppression; APC; β-catenin/Wnt; colon cancer
αβ or γδ thymocytes whose T-cell receptors (TCRs) recognize endogenously expressed antigens (Ag) are autospecific and, thus, potentially self-reactive. In the thymus, such T cells are eliminated during T-cell development through a process known as negative selection. As a model of negative selection of γδ T cells, we have used G8 γδ–T cell transgenic mice, which express a γδ TCR that recognizes the nonpolymorphic MHC class I TLb molecule. Here, we demonstrate that negative selection of autospecific γδ T cells is almost complete in the adult thymus but is markedly attenuated in the neonatal thymus. A consequence of this attenuated negative selection is that potentially self-reactive γδ thymocytes are allowed to escape negative selection, undergo extrathymic differentiation, and find sanctuary in the intestinal epithelium. Interestingly, the ability of these potentially self-reactive γδ T cells to find sanctuary requires both the intestinal epithelial environment and the extrathymic presence of the self-Ag. The implications of these findings on the development and persistence of autoreactive T cells in autoimmune disease are discussed.
Generation of functional CD4+CD8-CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg) in the murine thymus depends on FoxP3. Removal of the thymus from neonatal mice has been shown to result in a multiple organ autoimmune disease phenotype that can be prevented by introducing the FoxP3+ Treg population to the animal. It has therefore, been proposed that functional FoxP3+ Treg cells are not made in the neonatal thymus; however, it remains unclear when and where functional FoxP3+CD4+CD8-CD25+ thymocytes are generated in postnatal thymus.
We report that neither FoxP3 mRNA nor protein is expressed in CD4+CD8-CD25+, or CD4+CD8-CD25- thymocytes until 3–4 days post birth, despite the presence of mature CD4+CD8-CD25+/- thymocytes in the thymus by 1–2 days after birth. FoxP3-CD4+CD8-CD25+ thymocytes from day 2 newborn mice show no Treg activity. Interestingly, we are able to detect low numbers of FoxP3+ thymocytes dispersed throughout the medullary region of the thymus as early as 3–4 days post birth. Expression of FoxP3 is induced in embryonic day 17 fetal thymus organ culture (FTOC) after 4–6 days of in vitro culture. Treatment of FTOCs with thymic stromal derived lymphopoietin (TSLP) enhanced expression of FoxP3, and blocking the TSLP receptor reduces FoxP3 expression in FTOC. Furthermore, TSLP stimulates FoxP3 expression in purified CD4+CD8- thymocytes, but not in CD4+CD8+, CD4-CD8+ and CD4-CD8- thymocytes.
Expression of FoxP3 or Treg maturation is ontogenically distinct and kinetically delayed from the generation of CD4+CD8-CD25+ or CD4+CD8-CD25- thymocytes in the postnatal thymus. TSLP produced from medullary thymic epithelia cells (mTEC) contributes to the expression of FoxP3 and the maturation of natural regulatory T cells. Overall, these results suggest that the development of Treg cells requires paracrine signaling during late stages of thymocyte maturation that is distinct from signaling during positive or negative selection.
CD4+CD8+ thymocytes expressing self-reactive T cell antigen receptors (TCR) are deleted in the thymus as a consequence of TCR/self- antigen/major histocompatibility complex interactions. However, the signals that are necessary to initiate clonal deletion have not yet been clarified. Here we demonstrate that TCR engagement does not efficiently induce apoptosis of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes, although it generates signals that increase expression of CD5, a thymocyte differentiation marker. In fact, TCR signals fail to induce thymocyte apoptosis even when augmented by simultaneous engagement with CD4 or lymphocyte function 1-associated molecules. In marked contrast, signals generated by engagement of both TCR and the costimulatory molecule CD28 potently induce apoptosis of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes. Thus, the present results define a requirement for both TCR and costimulatory signals for thymocyte apoptosis and identify CD28 as one molecule that is capable of providing the necessary costimulus. These results provide a molecular basis for differences among cell types in their ability to mediate negative selection of developing thymocytes.
The thymus gland is important for the formation of competent T lymphocytes. However, there is long-standing evidence that greater than 95% of newly formed thymocytes do not emigrate to peripheral lymphoid tissues but instead die locally. We have identified a rapid and selective pathway for thymocyte turnover in vitro. The mechanism entails binding, uptake, and digestion by macrophages. The susceptible cells are a subpopulation of double-positive thymocytes. These thymocytes can be enriched by virtue of their high buoyant density in Percoll and prove to have low levels of surface CD3 and little or no surface TCR. However TCR-alpha and -beta genes have undergone rearrangement, and full length alpha and beta transcripts are abundant. Therefore many double-positive cells rearrange and express TCR genes but do not have normal levels of TCR on the cell surface. We propose that thymocytes that undergo high turnover in situ are unable to form receptors that can be selected by MHC molecules in the thymus, and that these cells are recognized and cleared by the macrophage.