Indirect presentation in the thymus limits naive and regulatory T-cell differentiation by promoting deletion of self-reactive thymocytes

Jin Yan Yap, Rushika C. Wirasinha, Anna Chan, Debbie R. Howard, Christopher C Goodnow, Stephen R. Daley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Acquisition of T-cell central tolerance involves distinct pathways of self-antigen presentation to thymocytes. One pathway termed indirect presentation requires a self-antigen transfer step from thymic epithelial cells (TECs) to bone marrow-derived cells before the self-antigen is presented to thymocytes. The role of indirect presentation in central tolerance is context-dependent, potentially due to variation in self-antigen expression, processing and presentation in the thymus. Here, we report experiments in mice in which TECs expressed a membrane-bound transgenic self-antigen, hen egg lysozyme (HEL), from either the insulin (insHEL) or thyroglobulin (thyroHEL) promoter. Intrathymic HEL expression was less abundant and more confined to the medulla in insHEL mice compared with thyroHEL mice. When indirect presentation was impaired by generating mice lacking MHC class II expression in bone marrow-derived antigen-presenting cells, insHEL-mediated thymocyte deletion was abolished, whereas thyroHEL-mediated deletion occurred at a later stage of thymocyte development and Foxp3+ regulatory T-cell differentiation increased. Indirect presentation increased the strength of T-cell receptor signalling that both self-antigens induced in thymocytes, as assessed by Helios expression. Hence, indirect presentation limits the differentiation of naive and regulatory T cells by promoting deletion of self-reactive thymocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-532
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • central tolerance
  • indirect presentation
  • regulatory T cells
  • T-cell deletion
  • T-cell tolerance

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