Mechanisms of T cell development and transformation

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2011;27:539-62. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-092910-154008. Epub 2011 Jul 5.


T cells are the key mediators in cell-mediated immunity. Their development and maturation involve a complex variety of interactions with nonlymphoid cell products and receptors. Highly specialized to defend against bacterial and viral infections, T cells also mediate immune surveillance against tumor cells and react to foreign tissues. T cell progenitors originate in the bone marrow and, through a series of defined and coordinated developmental stages, enter the thymus, differentiate, undergo selection, and eventually mature into functional T cells. The steps in this process are regulated through a complex transcriptional network, specific receptor-ligand pair interactions, and sensitization to trophic factors, which mediate the homing, proliferation, survival, and differentiation of developing T cells. This review examines the processes and pathways involved in the highly orchestrated development of T cell fate specification under physiological as well as pathological conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Chemokines / immunology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / immunology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Notch / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Chemokines
  • Receptors, Notch