The sequential activity of Gata3 and Thpok is required for the differentiation of CD1d-restricted CD4+ NKT cells

Eur J Immunol. 2010 Sep;40(9):2385-90. doi: 10.1002/eji.201040534.


While most CD4(+) T cells are MHC class II-restricted, a small subset, including the CD1d-restricted 'invariant' NKT (iNKT) cells, are selected on non-classical MHC-I or MHC-I-like molecules. We previously showed that the sequential activity of two zinc finger transcription factors, Gata3 and Thpok, promotes the differentiation of conventional, MHC II-restricted thymocytes into CD4(+) T cells. In the current study, we show that a Gata3-Thpok cascade is required for the differentiation of CD4(+) iNKT cells. Gata3 is required for iNKT cells to express Thpok, whereas Thpok is needed for proper NKT cell differentiation, and notably for NKT cells to maintain CD4 and terminate CD8 expression. These findings identify the sequential activity of Gata3 and Thpok as a hallmark of CD4(+) T-cell differentiation, regardless of MHC restriction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD1d / genetics
  • Antigens, CD1d / immunology
  • Antigens, CD1d / metabolism*
  • CD4 Antigens / genetics
  • CD4 Antigens / immunology
  • CD4 Antigens / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Separation
  • Flow Cytometry
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / immunology
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / genetics
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / metabolism*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / pathology
  • Protein Binding
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Antigens, CD1d
  • CD4 Antigens
  • GATA3 Transcription Factor
  • Gata3 protein, mouse
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Th-POK protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors