Project description:Thymic epithelial cells are one of the main components of the thymic microenvironment required for T-cell development. In this work, we describe an efficient method free of enzymatic and Facs-sorted methods to culture human medullary thymic epithelial cells without affecting the cell phenotypic, physiologic and functional features. Human medulla thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) are obtained by culturing thymic biopsies explants. After 7 days of primo-culture, mTECs keep their ability to express key molecules involved in immune tolerance processes such as autoimmune regulator, tissue-specific antigens, chemokines, and cytokines. In addition, the cells sensor their cultured environment and consequently adjust their gene expression network. Therefore, we describe and provide a human mTEC model that may be used to test the effect of various molecules on thymic epithelial cell homeostasis and physiology. This method should allow the investigations of the specificities and the knowledge of human mTECs in normal or pathological conditions and therefore discontinue the extrapolations done on the murine models.
Project description:The forkhead transcription factor Foxn1 is indispensable for thymus development, but the mechanisms by which it mediates thymic epithelial cell (TEC) development are poorly understood. To examine the cellular and molecular basis of Foxn1 function, we generated a novel and revertible hypomorphic allele of Foxn1. By varying levels of its expression, we identified a number of features of the Foxn1 system. Here we show that Foxn1 is a powerful regulator of TEC differentiation that is required at multiple intermediate stages of TE lineage development in the fetal and adult thymus. We find no evidence for a role for Foxn1 in TEC fate-choice. Rather, we show it is required for stable entry into both the cortical and medullary TEC differentiation programmes and subsequently is needed at increasing dosage for progression through successive differentiation states in both cortical and medullary TEC. We further demonstrate regulation by Foxn1 of a suite of genes with diverse roles in thymus development and/or function, suggesting it acts as a master regulator of the core thymic epithelial programme rather than regulating a particular aspect of TEC biology. Overall, our data establish a genetics-based model of cellular hierarchies in the TE lineage and provide mechanistic insight relating titration of a single transcription factor to control of lineage progression. Our novel revertible hypomorph system may be similarly applied to analyzing other regulators of development.
Project description:The thymic medulla is critical for the enforcement of central tolerance. In addition to deletion of auto-reactive T-cells, the thymic medulla supports the maturation of heterogeneous natural αβT-cells linked to tolerance mechanisms. Natural IL-17-secreting CD4(+)αβT-cells (nTh17) represent recently described natural αβT-cells that mature and undergo functional priming intrathymically. Despite a proposed potential to impact upon either protective or pathological inflammatory responses, the intrathymic mechanisms regulating the balance of nTh17 development are unclear. Here we compare the development of distinct natural αβT-cells in the thymus. We reveal that thymic stromal MHC class II expression and RelB-dependent medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTEC), including Aire(+) mTEC, are an essential requirement for nTh17 development. nTh17 demonstrate a partial, non-redundant requirement for both ICOS-ligand and CD80/86 costimulation, with a dispensable role for CD80/86 expression by thymic epithelial cells. Although mTEC constitutively expressed inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), a critical negative regulator of conventional Th17 differentiation, iNOS was not essential to constrain thymic nTh17. These findings highlight the critical role of the thymic medulla in the differential regulation of novel natural αβT-cell subsets, and reveal additional layers of thymic medullary regulation of T-cell driven autoimmunity and inflammation.
Project description:Within the thymus, two major thymic epithelial cell (TEC) subsets-cortical and medullary TECs-provide unique structural and functional niches for T cell development and establishment of central tolerance. Both lineages are believed to originate from a common progenitor cell, yet the cellular and molecular identity of these bipotent TEC progenitors/stem cells remains ill defined. Here we identify rare stromal cells in the murine adult thymus, which under low-attachment conditions formed spheres (termed "thymospheres"). These thymosphere-forming cells (TSFCs) displayed the stemness features of being slow cycling, self-renewing, and bipotent. TSFCs could be significantly enriched based on their distinct surface antigen phenotype. The FoxN1 transcription factor was dispensable for TSFCs maintenance in situ and for commitment to the medullary and cortical TEC lineages. In summary, this study presents the characterization of the adult thymic epithelial stem cells and demonstrates the dispensability of FoxN1 function for their stemness.
Project description:During gestation, sex hormones cause a significant thymic involution which enhances fertility. This thymic involution is rapidly corrected following parturition. As thymic epithelial cells (TECs) are responsible for the regulation of thymopoiesis, we analyzed the sequential phenotypic and transcriptomic changes in TECs during the postpartum period in order to identify mechanisms triggering postpartum thymic regeneration. In particular, we performed flow cytometry analyses and deep RNA-sequencing on purified TEC subsets at several time points before and after parturition. We report that pregnancy-induced involution is not caused by loss of TECs since their number does not change during or after pregnancy. However, during pregnancy, we observed a significant depletion of all thymocyte subsets downstream of the double-negative 1 (DN1) differentiation stage. Variations in thymocyte numbers correlated with conspicuous changes in the transcriptome of cortical TECs (cTECs). The transcriptomic changes affected predominantly cTEC expression of Foxn1, its targets and several genes that are essential for thymopoiesis. By contrast, medullary TECs (mTECs) showed very little transcriptomic changes in the early postpartum regenerative phase, but seemed to respond to the expansion of single-positive (SP) thymocytes in the late phase of regeneration. Together, these results show that postpartum thymic regeneration is orchestrated by variations in expression of a well-defined subset of cTEC genes, that occur very early after parturition.
Project description:Medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) ectopically express a diversity of peripheral tissue-restricted antigens (PTAs) and provide unique cues for the expansion, maturation and selection of a repertoire of functionally diverse T lymphocytes. Genetic deletion of all mature microRNAs in thymic epithelial cells (TECs) results in premature thymic involution, progressive disorganisation of the thymic epithelium, and alteration in thymic T cell lineage commitment, consequently eliciting autoimmune disorders. In the present study, we identified that microRNA-449a (miR-449a), a member of miR-449 cluster, regulated mTEC differentiation. Expression of miR-449a was induced by RANK ligand in mouse fetal thymus. In in vitro studies, overexpression of miR-449a induced thymic epithelial progenitor cells (TEPCs) differentiation into mature mTECs. Despite abundant expression of miR-449a in developing thymus, miR-449a-mutant mice exhibited normal thymic development. This might be partially due to in miR-449a-mutant thymus the up-regulation of miR-34a which shared similar seed sequence with miR-449a. However, thymic expression of miR-449/34 sponge which was able to neutralize the function of miR-449/34 family members significantly reduced the number of mature Ly51-MHCIIhi mTECs. Taken together, our data suggested that miR-449a modulated mTEC differentiation, and members of miR-34 cluster functioned redundantly to rescue miR-449a deficiency in thymus development.
Project description:The thymus provides multiple microenvironments that are essential for the development and repertoire selection of T lymphocytes. The thymic cortex induces the generation and positive selection of T lymphocytes, whereas the thymic medulla establishes self-tolerance among the positively selected T lymphocytes. Cortical thymic epithelial cells (cTECs) and medullary TECs (mTECs) constitute the major stromal cells that structurally form and functionally characterize the cortex and the medulla, respectively. cTECs and mTECs are both derived from the endodermal epithelium of the third pharyngeal pouch. However, the molecular and cellular characteristics of the progenitor cells for the distinct TEC lineages are unclear. Here we report the preparation and characterization of mice that express the recombinase Cre instead of ?5t, a proteasome subunit that is abundant in cTECs and not detected in other cell types, including mTECs. By crossing ?5t-Cre knock-in mice with loxP-dependent GFP reporter mice, we found that ?5t-Cre-mediated recombination occurs specifically in TECs but not in any other cell types in the mouse. Surprisingly, in addition to cTECs, ?5t-Cre-loxP-mediated GFP expression was detected in almost all mTECs. These results indicate that the majority of mTECs, including autoimmune regulator-expressing mTECs, are derived from ?5t-expressing progenitor cells.
Project description:Thymic medullary regions are formed in neonatal mice as islet-like structures, which increase in size over time and eventually fuse a few weeks after birth into a continuous structure. The development of medullary thymic epithelial cells (TEC) is dependent on NF-?B associated signaling though other signaling pathways may contribute. Here, we demonstrate that Stat3-mediated signals determine medullary TEC cellularity, architectural organization and hence the size of the medulla. Deleting Stat3 expression selectively in thymic epithelia precludes the postnatal enlargement of the medulla retaining a neonatal architecture of small separate medullary islets. In contrast, loss of Stat3 expression in cortical TEC neither affects the cellularity or organization of the epithelia. Activation of Stat3 is mainly positioned downstream of EGF-R as its ablation in TEC phenocopies the loss of Stat3 expression in these cells. These results indicate that Stat3 meditated signal via EGF-R is required for the postnatal development of thymic medullary regions.