The thymus exports long-lived fully committed T cell precursors that can colonize primary lymphoid organs

Nat Immunol. 2006 Jan;7(1):76-82. doi: 10.1038/ni1293. Epub 2005 Dec 11.


Thymic export of cells is believed to be restricted to mature T cells. Here we show that the thymus also exports fully committed T cell precursors that colonize primary lymphoid organs. These precursor cells exited the thymus before T cell receptor rearrangements and colonized lymphoid organs such as the thymus and the gut. Migration of the thymic T cell-committed precursors led to permanent colonization of the gut precursor compartment, improved the capacity of gut precursors to further differentiate into T cells and was sufficient for the generation of 'euthymic like' CD8alphaalpha(+) intraepithelial lymphocytes. These data demonstrate a new function for the thymus in peripheral seeding with T cell precursors that become long lived after thymus export.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Movement / immunology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Thymus Gland / cytology*
  • Thymus Gland / immunology