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Trends Immunol. 2003 Apr;24(4):197-206.

The role of morphogens in T-cell development.

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Department of Cell Biology, Faculty of Biology, Complutense University, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


The Hedgehog (Hh) and Wnt family proteins, and the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) 2 and 4, act as morphogens during vertebrate embryogenesis and organogenesis by regulating patterning and cell fate. They have recently been found to have a role in regulating cell fate and determination in self-renewing tissues in adults, such as the immune system and haematopoietic system. This Review presents studies on the role of Sonic Hh (Shh), Wnts and BMP2/4 in the regulation of thymocyte development. Shh and BMP2/4 act as negative regulators of thymocyte development. By contrast, Wnt signalling, through beta-catenin, has a positive role in the control of T-cell development, such that an absence or reduction in the Wnt signal leads to a reduction in cell number and cell proliferation rate and differentiation to the CD4+CD8+ double-positive stage.

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