T cells are produced in the thymus from progenitors of extrathymic origin. As no specific markers are available, the developmental pathway of progenitors preceding thymic colonization remains unclear. Here we show that progenitors in murine fetal liver and blood, which are capable of giving rise to T cells, NK cells and dendritic cells, but not B cells, can be isolated by their surface expression of paired immunoglobulin-like receptors (PIR). PIR expression is maintained until the earliest intrathymic stage, then downregulated before the onset of CD25 expression. Unlike intrathymic progenitors, generation of prethymic PIR+ progenitors does not require Hes1-mediated Notch signaling. These findings disclose a prethymic stage of T-cell development programmed for immigration of the thymus, which is genetically separable from intrathymic stages.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)