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Eur J Immunol. 2004 May;34(5):1405-13.

Inhibition of Notch signaling biases rat thymocyte development towards the NK cell lineage.

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  • 1Institute of Virology and Immunobiology, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Germany.


Notch receptors are involved in directing the choice between alternative cell fates in developmental scenarios such as thymopoiesis. By pharmacological interference in rat fetal thymus organ culture we show that inhibition of Notch signaling arrests T cell development at an early double-negative stage and is accompanied by a dramatic increase in the number of NK cells. These cells show an activated phenotype, lack recombination of the TCR beta gene locus and express perforin. Similarly, in thymic lobes reconstituted with fetal liver cells, progenitors predominantly develop into NK cells both after pharmacological interference of Notch and after treatment with a recombinant rat Notch1/Fc chimera. Collectively, this identifies the lineage decision of NK/T precursor cells as an important site of Notch action in rat thymocytes.

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