Extrathymic T cell differentiation

Curr Opin Immunol. 1995 Apr;7(2):235-42. doi: 10.1016/0952-7915(95)80008-5.


In the mouse, the gut mucosa is a major site of extrathymic differentiation of T cells. Recent data in this past year show that this process differs from the main thymic differentiation pathway not only in its location, but also in its use of costimulatory molecules, signal transduction modules, and mechanisms of repertoire selection. The thymus exerts an influence on the expansion of the extrathymically differentiated gut intraepithelial lymphocytes that appears to be varied in nature, including acting as a source of TCR- progenitors. All gut intraepithelial lymphocytes, whatever their extrathymic or thymic site of differentiation, have common features of activated and specialized cytotoxic cells. Other T cells may differentiate extrathymically, in particular in the liver; these later cells appear to have a very restricted, probably autoreactive repertoire, and also display natural killer cell features.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology