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Science. 2004 Jul 9;305(5681):248-51.

Thymic origin of intestinal alphabeta T cells revealed by fate mapping of RORgammat+ cells.

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Molecular Pathogenesis Program, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Intestinal intraepithelial T lymphocytes (IELs) are likely to play a key role in host mucosal immunity and, unlike other T cells, have been proposed to differentiate from local precursors rather than from thymocytes. We show here that IELs expressing the alphabeta T cell receptor are derived from precursors that express RORgammat, an orphan nuclear hormone receptor detected only in immature CD4+CD8+ thymocytes, fetal lymphoid tissue-inducer (LTi) cells, and LTi-like cells in cryptopatches within the adult intestinal lamina propria. Using cell fate mapping, we found that all intestinal alphabeta T cells are progeny of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes, indicating that the adult intestine is not a significant site for alphabeta T cell development. Our results suggest that intestinal RORgammat+ cells are local organizers of mucosal lymphoid tissue.

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