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Aug 2014 Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Differential requirement for CCR4 and CCR7 during the development of innate and adaptive αβT cells in the adult thymus.


Cowan JE, McCarthy NI, Parnell SM, White AJ, Bacon A, Serge A, Irla M, Lane PJ, Jenkinson EJ, Jenkinson WE, Anderson G


αβT cell development depends upon serial migration of thymocyte precursors through cortical and medullary microenvironments, enabling specialized stromal cells to provide important signals at specific stages of their development. Although conventional αβT cells are subject to clonal deletion in the medulla, entry into the thymus medulla also fosters αβT cell differentiation. For example, during postnatal periods, the medulla is involved in the intrathymic generation of multiple αβT cell lineages, notably the induction of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cell development and the completion of invariant NKT cell development. Although migration of conventional αβT cells to the medulla is mediated by the chemokine receptor CCR7, how other T cell subsets gain access to medullary areas during their normal development is not clear. In this study, we show that combining a panel of thymocyte maturation markers with cell surface analysis of CCR7 and CCR4 identifies distinct stages in the development of multiple αβT cell lineages in the thymus. Although Aire regulates expression of the CCR4 ligands CCL17 and CCL22, we show that CCR4 is dispensable for thymocyte migration and development in the adult thymus, demonstrating defective T cell development in Aire(-/-) mice is not because of a loss of CCR4-mediated migration. Moreover, we reveal that CCR7 controls the development of invariant NKT cells by enabling their access to IL-15 trans-presentation in the thymic medulla and influences the balance of early and late intrathymic stages of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cell development. Collectively, our data identify novel roles for CCR7 during intrathymic T cell development, highlighting its importance in enabling multiple αβT cell lineages to access the thymic medulla.

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