Premature expression of Foxp3 in double-negative thymocytes.
ABSTRACT: Peripheral immune regulation depends on the generation of thymic-derived regulatory T (tTreg) cells to maintain self-tolerance and to counterbalance overshooting immune responses. The expression of the Treg lineage defining transcription factor Foxp3 in developing tTreg cells depends on TCR signaling during the thymic selection process of these T cells. In this study, we surprisingly identify Foxp3+ immature thymocytes at the double-negative (DN) stage in transcription factor 7 (Tcf7)-deficient mice. These Foxp3+ cells did not express a TCR (? or ?? chains), CD3 or CD5 and therefore these cells were true DN cells. Further investigation of this phenomenon in a transgenic TCR model showed that Foxp3-expressing DN cells could not respond to TCR stimulation in vivo. These data suggest that Foxp3 expression in these DN cells occurred independently of TCR signaling. Interestingly, these Foxp3+ DN cells were located in a transition state between DN1 and DN2 (CD4-CD8-CD3-TCR-CD44highCD25low). Our results indicate that Tcf7 is involved in preventing the premature expression of Foxp3 in DN thymocytes.
Project description:Maintenance of immune tolerance critically depends upon regulatory T cells that express the transcription factor forkhead box P3 (Foxp3). These CD4(+) T cells can be generated in the thymus, termed thymus-derived regulatory T cells (tTregs), but their developmental pathway remains incompletely understood. tTreg development has been shown to be delayed compared with that of CD4(+) single positive (SP) thymocytes, with tTregs being detected only in neonatal thymi by day 3 after birth. Here, we outline the reasons for this delayed emergence of Foxp3(+) tTregs and demonstrate that thymocyte apoptosis is intrinsically tied to tTreg development. We show that thymic apoptosis leads to the production of TGF? intrathymically from thymic macrophages, dendritic cells, and epithelial cells. This TGF? then induces foxp3 expression and drives tTreg generation. Thymocyte apoptosis has previously been shown to accelerate after birth, which drives increases in TGF? in the neonatal thymus. We highlight a paucity of TGF? in the neonatal thymus, accounting for the delayed development of tTregs compared with CD4(+) SP thymocytes. Importantly, we show that enhanced levels of apoptosis in the thymus result in an augmented tTreg population and, moreover, that decreasing thymic apoptosis results in reduced tTregs. In addition to this, we also show that T-cell receptor (TCR) signals of different affinity were all capable of driving tTreg development; however, to achieve this TGF? signals must also be received concomitant with the TCR signal. Collectively, our results indicate that thymic apoptosis is a key event in tTreg generation and reveal a previously unrecognized apoptosis-TGF?-Foxp3 axis that mediates the development of tTregs.
Project description:Although natural killer T cells (NKT cells) are thought to be generated from CD4+CD8+ (DP) thymocytes, the developmental origin of CD4-CD8- (DN) NKT cells has remained unclear. In this study, we found the level of NK1.1 expression was highest in DN cells, followed by CD4 and CD8 (SP) and DP cells. The level of NK1.1 expression was highest in CD44+CD25- (DN1) cells, after that CD44+CD25+ (DN2), finally, CD44-CD25- (DN3) and CD44- CD25+ (DN4) cells. Unexpectedly, cytoplasmic CD3 was not only expressed in SP and DP thymocytes but also in most DN thymocytes at various stages. The mean fluorescence of cytoplasmic and surface CD3 in DN cells was significantly lower than in mature (SP) T and NKT cells in the thymus and spleen. Interestingly, there were more NKT cells in DN-cytoplasmic CD3 expression cells was higher than in DN-surface CD3 expression cells. There were more CD3-NKT cells in DN1 thymocytes than in TCR-β-NKT cells. NKT cells expressed higher levels of IL-7Rα which was correlated with CD44 expression in the thymus. Our data suggest that T cells and NKT cells follow similar patterns of expression with respect to cytoplasmic and surface CD3. Cytoplasmic CD3 could be used as a marker for early stage T cells. Both cytoplasmic CD3 and surface CD3 were expressed in mature T cells and immature T cells, including the immature cytoplasmic CD3+ surface CD3- and surface CD3+TCR-β- cells in DN1-NKT thymocytes. CD44 could be used as an additional marker of NKT cells which may originate from cytoplasmic CD3-positive DN thymocytes that express CD44 and IL-7Rα in mice.
Project description:Thymic atrophy occurs during infection being associated with apoptosis of double positive (DP) and premature exit of DP and double negative (DN) thymocytes. We observed for the first time that a significant bone marrow aplasia and a decrease in common lymphoid progenitors (CLPs) preceded thymic alterations in mice infected with Trypanosoma cruzi. In addition, depletion of the DN2 stage was previous to the DN1, indicating an alteration in the differentiation from DN1 to DN2 thymocytes. Interestingly, infected mice deficient in IL-6 expression showed higher numbers of DP and CD4+ thymocytes than wild type infected mice, while presenting similar percentages of DN1 thymocytes. Moreover, the drop in late differentiation stages of DN thymocytes was partially abrogated in comparison with wild type littermates. Thus, our results suggest that thymic atrophy involves a drop in CLPs production in bone marrow and IL-6-dependent and independent mechanisms that inhibits the differentiation of DN thymocytes.
Project description:Friend leukemia integration 1 (Fli-1) is a member of the Ets transcription factor family and is expressed during T-cell development; however, the role Fli-1 plays in early T-cell differentiation has not been elucidated. In this report, we demonstrate that in mouse, Fli-1 overexpression retards the CD4(-) CD8(-) double-negative (DN) to CD4(+) CD8(+) double-positive (DP) transition by deregulating normal DN thymocyte development. Specifically, Fli-1 expression moderates the DN2 and DN3 developmental transitions. We further show that Fli-1 overexpression partially mimics strong TCR signals in developing DN thymocytes and thereby enhances ?? T-cell development. Conversely, Fli-1 knockdown by small hairpin RNA reverses the lineage bias from ?? T cells and directs DN cells to the ?? lineage by attenuating TCR signaling. Therefore, Fli-1 plays a critical role in both the DN2 to DN3 transition and ??/?? lineage commitment.
Project description:Postnatal thymic epithelial cell (TEC) homeostatic defect- or natural aging-induced thymic atrophy results in a decline in central T-cell tolerance establishment, which is constituted by thymocyte negative selection and cluster of differentiation (CD) 4+ thymic regulatory T (tTreg) cell generation. Emerging evidence shows this decline mainly results from defects in negative selection, but there is insufficient evidence regarding whether tTreg cell generation is also impaired. We mechanistically studied tTreg cell generation in the atrophied thymus by utilizing both postnatal TEC-defective (resulting from FoxN1-floxed conditional knockout [cKO]) and naturally aged mouse models. We found that the capacity of tTreg cell generation was not impaired compared to CD4+ thymic conventional T cells, suggesting thymic atrophy positively influences tTreg cell generation. This is potentially attributed to decreased T cell receptor (TCR) signaling strength due to inefficiency in promiscuous expression of self-antigens or presenting a neo-self-antigen by medullary TECs, displaying decreased negative selection-related marker genes (Nur77 and CD5high) in CD4 single positive (SP) thymocytes. Our results provide evidence that the atrophied thymus attempts to balance the defective negative selection by enhancing tTreg cell generation to maintain central T-cell tolerance in the elderly. Once the balance is broken, age-related diseases could take place.
Project description:Thymocyte differentiation is dependent on the availability and transport of metabolites in the thymus niche. As expression of metabolite transporters is a rate-limiting step in nutrient utilization, cell surface transporter levels generally reflect the cell's metabolic state. The GLUT1 glucose transporter is upregulated on actively dividing thymocytes, identifying thymocytes with an increased metabolism. However, it is not clear whether transporters of essential elements such as phosphate are modulated during thymocyte differentiation. While PiT1 and PiT2 are both phosphate transporters in the SLC20 family, we show here that they exhibit distinct expression profiles on both murine and human thymocytes. PiT2 expression distinguishes thymocytes with high metabolic activity, identifying immature murine double negative (CD4-CD8-) DN3b and DN4 thymocyte blasts as well as immature single positive (ISP) CD8 thymocytes. Notably, the absence of PiT2 expression on RAG2-deficient thymocytes, blocked at the DN3a stage, strongly suggests that high PiT2 expression is restricted to thymocytes having undergone a productive TCR? rearrangement at the DN3a/DN3b transition. Similarly, in the human thymus, PiT2 was upregulated on early post-? selection CD4+ISP and TCR??-CD4hiDP thymocytes co-expressing the CD71 transferrin receptor, a marker of metabolic activity. In marked contrast, expression of the PiT1 phosphate importer was detected on mature CD3+ murine and human thymocytes. Notably, PiT1 expression on CD3+DN thymocytes was identified as a biomarker of an aging thymus, increasing from 8.4 ± 1.5% to 42.4 ± 9.4% by 1 year of age (p < 0.0001). We identified these cells as TCR?? and, most significantly, NKT, representing 77 ± 9% of PiT1+DN thymocytes by 1 year of age (p < 0.001). Thus, metabolic activity and thymic aging are associated with distinct expression profiles of the PiT1 and PiT2 phosphate transporters.
Project description:Regulatory T (Treg) cells are characterized by the expression of CD4, CD25 and the intracellular Foxp3. However, these markers do not indicate whether Treg cells are thymic derived Treg (tTreg) cells or peripherally induced Treg (pTreg) cells. Recently, Helios and Neuropilin-1 (Nrp1) has been reported as potential markers for tTreg cells. Herein, we used flow cytometry to examine the proportion of CD4(+)CD8(-)CD25(+) Treg cells expressing Helios, Nrp1 and Foxp3 in thymus, pancreatic draining lymph nodes (PDLNs) and spleen of CD-1 mice, and thymus of NOD and C57BL/6 mice. The frequency of Helios(+) cells was higher than that of Nrp1(+) cells in CD4(+)CD8(-)CD25(+) and CD4(+)CD8(-)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cells in thymus. Interestingly, the proportion of IL-10(+), Ebi3(+)and CTLA-4(+) cells was higher in Helios(+) than Nrp1(+) tTreg cells. The anti-apoptotic activity of Helios(+) tTreg cells was higher in thymus compared to Nrp1(+) tTreg cells. Nrp1 seems to be expressed at a later developmental stage compared to Helios and Foxp3. Furthermore, the expression of Nrp1 in CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells of younger mice did not increase after stimulating them in vitro with anti-CD3 and -CD28. Thus, under these conditions, Helios could be considered a more reliable marker for distinguishing tTreg cells from pTreg cells than Nrp1.
Project description:In mice that express a transgene for the 2C T cell antigen-receptor (TCR) and lack a recombinase-activating gene (2C(+)RAG(-/-) mice) most of the peripheral T cells are CD8(+), a few are CD4(+), and a significant fraction are CD4(-)CD8(-) [double negative (DN)]. The DN 2C cells, like DN T cells that are abundant in various other alphabeta TCR-transgenic mice, appear to be derived directly from DN thymocytes that prematurely express the TCR transgene. The DN 2C cells are virtually absent in mice deficient in major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) but more abundant in mice deficient in MHC-I, suggesting that the DN 2C thymocytes are positively selected by self-peptide-MHC-II (pMHC-II) complexes and negatively selected by self-pMHC-I complexes. The pMHC-I complexes, however, positively select CD8(+) 2C T cells in the same mice. The different effects of thymic pMHC-I on DN and CD8(+) thymocytes are consistent with the finding that DN 2C thymocytes are more sensitive than more mature CD4(+)CD8(+) [double positive (DP)] thymocytes to a weak pMHC-I agonist for the 2C TCR. Together with previous evidence that DP thymocytes respond more sensitively than T cells in the periphery to weak pMHC agonists, the findings suggest progressive decreases in responsiveness to self-pMHC-I complexes as thymocytes develop from DN to DP thymocytes and then to mature naïve T cells in the periphery.
Project description:Thymic regulatory T cells (tTreg) are critical in the maintenance of normal T cell immunity and tolerance. The role of TCR in tTreg selection remains incompletely understood. In this study, we assessed TCR? and TCR? sequences of mouse tTreg and thymic conventional CD4<sup>+</sup> T cells (Tconv) by high-throughput sequencing. We identified ?? TCR sequences that were unique to either tTreg or Tconv and found that these were distinct as recognized by machine learning algorithm and by preferentially used amino acid trimers in ?? CDR3 of tTreg. In addition, a proportion of ?? TCR sequences expressed by tTreg were also found in Tconv, and machine learning classified the great majority of these shared ?? TCR sequences as characteristic of Tconv and not tTreg. These findings identify two populations of tTreg, one in which the regulatory T cell fate is associated with unique properties of the TCR and another with TCR properties characteristic of Tconv for which tTreg fate is determined by factors beyond TCR sequence.
Project description:The spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk) and zeta-associated protein of 70 kD (ZAP-70) tyrosine kinases are both expressed during early thymocyte development, but their unique thymic functions have remained obscure. No specific role for Syk during beta-selection has been established, and no role has been described for ZAP-70 before positive selection. We show that Syk and ZAP-70 provide thymocytes with unique and separable fitness advantages during early development. Syk-deficient, but not ZAP-70-deficient, thymocytes are specifically impaired in initial pre-TCR signaling at the double-negative (DN) 3 beta selection stage and show reduced cell-cycle entry. Surprisingly, and despite overlapping expression of both kinases, only ZAP-70 appears to promote sustained pre-TCR/TCR signaling during the DN4, immature single-positive, and double-positive stages of development before thymic selection occurs. ZAP-70 promotes survival and cell-cycle progression of developing thymocytes before positive selection, as also shown by in vivo anti-CD3 treatment of recombinase-activating gene 1-deficient mice. Our results establish a temporal separation of Syk family kinase function during early thymocyte development and a novel role for ZAP-70. We propose that pre-TCR signaling continues during DN4 and later stages, with ZAP-70 dynamically replacing Syk for continued pre-TCR signaling.