The challenges in recapitulating in vivo human T cell development in laboratory models have posed a barrier to understanding human thymopoiesis. Here, we used single-cell RNA sequencing (sRNA-seq) to interrogate the rare CD34+ progenitor and the more differentiated CD34- fractions in the human postnatal thymus. CD34+ thymic progenitors were comprised of a spectrum of specification and commitment states characterized by multilineage priming followed by gradual T cell commitment. The earliest progenitors in the differentiation trajectory were CD7- and expressed a stem-cell-like transcriptional profile, but had also initiated T cell priming. Clustering analysis identified a CD34+ subpopulation primed for the plasmacytoid dendritic lineage, suggesting an intrathymic dendritic specification pathway. CD2 expression defined T cell commitment stages where loss of B cell potential preceded that of myeloid potential. These datasets delineate gene expression profiles spanning key differentiation events in human thymopoiesis and provide a resource for the further study of human T cell development.
Keywords: T-lineage commitment; T-lineage specification; early thymic progenitors; human thymopoiesis; single-cell transcriptomes.
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