THEMIS: Two Models, Different Thresholds

Trends Immunol. 2017 Sep;38(9):622-632. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 Jul 8.


THEMIS, a recently identified T-lineage-restricted protein, is the founding member of a large metazoan protein family. Gene inactivation studies have revealed a critical requirement for THEMIS during thymocyte positive selection, implicating THEMIS in signaling downstream of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR), but the mechanistic underpinnings of THEMIS function have remained elusive. A previous model posited that THEMIS prevents thymocytes from inappropriately crossing the positive/negative selection threshold by dampening TCR signaling. However, new data suggest an alternative model where THEMIS enhances TCR signaling enabling thymocytes to reach the threshold for positive selection, avoiding death by neglect. We review the data supporting each model and conclude that the preponderance of evidence favors an enhancing function for THEMIS in TCR signaling.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cysteine / genetics
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Protein Domains / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Thymocytes / physiology*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • thymocyte-expressed molecule involved in selection, human
  • Cysteine