Development of alphabeta T cells in the human thymus

Nat Rev Immunol. 2002 Oct;2(10):760-72. doi: 10.1038/nri913.


The thymus is the main producer of alphabeta T cells and is, therefore, crucial for a normal immune system. The intrathymic developmental pathway of human alphabeta T cells has now been delineated. The production of new T cells by the thymus decreases with age, and the thymus was thought to be redundant in adults once the peripheral T-cell pool has been formed early in life. However, recent work has shown that the thymus can function even at an advanced age. Research into the production of T cells in clinical settings that are associated with loss of T cells in the periphery has sparked renewed interest in the function of the human thymus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Gene Rearrangement, B-Lymphocyte
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV-1
  • Humans
  • Lymphopoiesis
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology*
  • Thymus Gland / growth & development
  • Thymus Gland / immunology*


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta