Critical involvement of Tcf-1 in expansion of thymocytes

Marco W. Schilham, Anne Wilson, Petra Moerer, Barry J. Benaissa-Trouw, Ana Cumano, Hans C. Clevers

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201 Citations (Scopus)


T cell maturation in Tcf-1(-/-) mice deteriorates progressively and halts completely around 6 mo of age. During fetal development thymocyte subpopulations seem normal, although total cell numbers are lower. By 4 to 6 wk of age, obvious blockades in the differentiation of CD4-8- thymocytes are observed at two distinct stages (CD44+25+ and CD44-25-), both of which are normally characterized by extensive proliferation. This lack of thymocyte expansion and/or differentiation was also observed when Tcf-1(-/-) progenitor cells from the aorta-gonad-mesonephros region (embryonic day 11.5), fetal liver (embryonic day 12.5/14.5), and fetal bone marrow (embryonic day 18.5) were allowed to differentiate in normal thymic lobes (fetal thymic organ cultures) or were injected intrathymically into normal recipients. Despite these apparent defects in thymocyte differentiation and expansion, adult Tcf-1(-/-) mice are immunocompetent, as they generate virus neutralizing Abs at normal titers. Furthermore, their peripheral T cells have an activated phenotype (increased CD44 and decreased CD62L expression) and proliferate normally in response to Ag or mitogen, suggesting that these cells may have arisen from the early wave of development during embryogenesis and are either long lived or have subsequently been maintained by peripheral expansion. As Tcf-1 is a critical component in the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, these data suggest that Wnt-like factors play a role in the expansion of double-negative thymocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3984-3992
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 1998
Externally publishedYes


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