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J Immunol. 2002 Nov 15;169(10):5496-504.

Bone morphogenetic protein 2/4 signaling regulates early thymocyte differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, London SW7 2AZ, UK.


Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)2 and BMP4 are involved in the development of many tissues. In this study, we show that BMP2/4 signaling is involved in thymocyte development. Our data suggest that termination of BMP2/4 signaling is necessary for differentiation of CD44(+)CD25(-)CD4(-)CD8(-) double negative (DN) cells along the T cell lineage. BMP2 and BMP4 are produced by the thymic stroma and the requisite BMP receptor molecules (BMPR-1A, BMPR-1B, BMPR-II), and signal transduction molecules (Smad-1, -5, -8, and -4) are expressed by DN thymocytes. BMP4 inhibits thymocyte proliferation, enhances thymocyte survival, and arrests thymocyte differentiation at the CD44(+)CD25(-) DN stage, before T cell lineage commitment. Neutralization of endogenous BMP2 and BMP4 by treatment with the antagonist Noggin promotes and accelerates thymocyte differentiation, increasing the expression of CD2 and the proportion of CD44(-)CD25(-) DN cells and CD4(+)CD8(+) double-positive cells. Our study suggests that the BMP2/4 pathway may function in thymic homeostasis by regulating T cell lineage commitment and differentiation.

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