Maintenance of T cell specification and differentiation requires recurrent notch receptor-ligand interactions.
Notch signaling has been shown to play a pivotal role in inducing T lineage commitment. However, T cell progenitors are known to retain other lineage potential long after the first point at which Notch signaling is required. Thus, additional requirements for Notch signals and the timing of these events relative to intrathymic differentiation remain unknown. Here, we address this issue by culturing subsets of CD4 CD8 double negative (DN) thymocytes on control stromal cells or stromal cells expressing Delta-like 1 (Dll1). All DN subsets were found to require Notch signals to differentiate into CD4+ CD8+ T cells. Using clonal analyses, we show that CD44+ CD25+ (DN2) cells, which appeared committed to the T cell lineage when cultured on Dll1-expressing stromal cells, nonetheless gave rise to natural killer cells with a progenitor frequency similar to that of CD44+ CD25- (DN1) thymocytes when Notch signaling was absent. These data, together with the observation that Dll1 is expressed on stromal cells throughout the thymic cortex, indicates that Notch receptor-ligand interactions are necessary for induction and maintenance of T cell lineage specification at both the DN1 and DN2 stages of T cell development, suggesting that the Notch-induced repression of the B cell fate is temporally separate from Notch-induced commitment to the T lineage.
Schmitt, TM; Ciofani, M; Petrie, HT; Zúñiga-Pflücker, JC
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