Atypical Memory Phenotype T Cells with Low Homeostatic Potential and Impaired Tcr Signaling and Regulatory T Cell Function in Foxn1/ Mutant Mice

Xiao, S.; Su, D..; Manley, N.R.

The Journal of Immunology 179(12): 8153-8163


DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.179.12.8153
Accession: 068490689

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Foxn1Delta/Delta mutants have a block in thymic epithelial cell differentiation at an intermediate progenitor stage, resulting in reduced thymocyte cellularity and blocks at the double-negative and double-positive stages. Whereas naive single-positive thymocytes were reduced >500-fold in the adult Foxn1Delta/Delta thymus, peripheral T cell numbers were reduced only 10-fold. The current data shows that Foxn1Delta/Delta peripheral T cells had increased expression of activation markers and the ability to produce IL-2 and IFN-gamma. These cells acquired this profile immediately after leaving the thymus as early as the newborn stage and maintained high steady-state proliferation in vivo but decreased proliferation in response to TCR stimulation in vitro. Single-positive thymocytes and naive T cells also had constitutively low alphabetaTCR and IL7R expression. These cells also displayed reduced ability to undergo homeostatic proliferation and increased rates of apoptosis. Although the frequency of Foxp3+CD4+CD25+ T cells was normal in Foxn1Delta/Delta mutant mice, these cells failed to have suppressor function, resulting in reduced regulatory T cell activity. Recent data from our laboratory suggest that T cells in the Foxn1Delta/Delta thymus develop from atypical progenitor cells via a noncanonical pathway. Our results suggest that the phenotype of peripheral T cells in Foxn1Delta/Delta mutant mice is the result of atypical progenitor cells developing in an abnormal thymic microenvironment with a deficient TCR and IL7 signaling system.