CD8(+) T cells are selected via low-affinity interaction with MHC class I molecules on thymic epithelial cells (TECs). However, compromised T cell receptor signaling was proposed to force CD8(+) T cell selection on hematopoietic cells through a SLAM-associated protein (SAP)-dependent mechanism similar to NKT cells. The outcome is an unconventional CD8(+) T cell with phenotypic and functional characteristics of innate lymphocytes. Here we showed that Id3(-/-) CD8(+) T cells had an innate-like phenotype and required SAP for their development. However, like conventional CD8(+) T cells, Id3(-/-) CD8(+) thymocytes were selected on TECs. The requirement for SAP and the innate-like phenotype was not intrinsic to Id3(-/-) CD8(+) thymocytes. Rather, an expanded population of NKT-like cells induced the innate phenotype on CD8(+) T cells through production of interleukin-4. Our findings reveal that accumulation of NKT-like cells promotes conventional CD8(+) thymocytes to acquire innate lymphocyte characteristics.
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