Long-term retention of mature NK1.1+ NKT cells in the thymus

Stuart P. Berzins, Finlay W. McNab, Claerwen M. Jones, Mark J. Smyth, Dale I. Godfrey

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The NKT cell pool in the thymus contains immature (NK1.1-) and mature (NK1.1+) subsets that represent distinct linear stages of a linear developmental pathway. An unexplained paradox is why immature NK1.1 - NKT cells are mainly exported to the periphery instead of the more mature and more abundant NK1.1+ NKT cells. In this study we have determined that mature NK1.1+ NKT cells are retained by the thymus to form an extremely long-lived resident population capable of rapid and prolonged production of IFN-γ and IL-4. The retention of mature NKT cells provides an explanation for why the periphery is mainly seeded by immature NK1.1 - cells despite mature NK1.1+ NKT cells being more abundant in the thymus. This is the first study to identify a mature T cell subset retained within the thymus and is additional evidence of the distinct developmental pathways of mainstream T cells and NKT cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4059-4065
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes

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