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J Immunol. 2004 Feb 1;172(3):1397-406.

Mature human thymocytes migrate on laminin-5 with activation of metalloproteinase-14 and cleavage of CD44.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Unité 576, Nice, France.


We have previously shown that laminin-5 is expressed in the human thymic medulla, in which mature thymocytes are located. We now report that laminin-5 promotes migration of mature medullary thymocytes, whereas it has no effect on cortical immature thymocytes. Migration was inhibited by blocking mAbs directed against laminin-5 integrin receptors and by inhibitors of metalloproteinases. Interactions of thymocytes with laminin-5 induced a strong up-regulation of active metalloproteinase-14. However, we found that thymocytes did not cleave the laminin-5 gamma(2) chain, suggesting that they do not use the same pathway as epithelial cells to migrate on laminin-5. Interactions of thymocytes with laminin-5 also induced the release of a soluble fragment of CD44 cell surface molecule. Moreover, CD44-rich supernatants induced thymocyte migration in contrast with supernatants depleted in CD44 by immunoadsorption. CD44 cleavage was recently reported to be due to metalloproteinase-14 activation and led to increased migration in cancer cells. Thus, in this study, we show that laminin-5 promotes human mature thymocyte migration in vitro via a multimolecular mechanism involving laminin-5 integrin receptors, metalloproteinase-14 and CD44. These data suggest that, in vivo, laminin-5 may function in the migration of mature thymocytes within the medulla and be part of the thymic emigration process.

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