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J Immunol. 2005 Jun 15;174(12):7753-63.

Restricted STAT5 activation dictates appropriate thymic B versus T cell lineage commitment.

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Center for Immunology, Cancer Center, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The molecular mechanisms regulating lymphocyte lineage commitment remain poorly characterized. To explore the role of the IL7R in this process, we generated transgenic mice that express a constitutively active form of STAT5 (STAT5b-CA), a key downstream IL7R effector, throughout lymphocyte development. STAT5b-CA mice exhibit a 40-fold increase in pro-B cells in the thymus. As documented by BrdU labeling studies, this increase is not due to enhanced B cell proliferation. Thymic pro-B cells in STAT5b-CA mice show a modest increase in cell survival ( approximately 4-fold), which correlates with bcl-x(L) expression. However, bcl-x(L) transgenic mice do not show increases in thymic B cell numbers. Thus, STAT5-dependent bcl-x(L) up-regulation and enhanced B cell survival are not sufficient to drive the thymic B cell development observed in STAT5b-CA mice. Importantly, thymic pro-B cells in STAT5b-CA mice are derived from early T cell progenitors (ETPs), suggesting that STAT5 acts by altering ETP lineage commitment. Supporting this hypothesis, STAT5 binds to the pax5 promoter in ETPs from STAT5b-CA mice and induces pax5, a master regulator of B cell development. Conversely, STAT5b-CA mice exhibit a decrease in the DN1b subset of ETPs, demonstrating that STAT5 activation inhibits early T cell differentiation or lineage commitment. On the basis of these findings, we propose that the observed expression of the IL-7R on common lymphoid progenitors, but not ETPs, results in differential STAT5 signaling within these distinct progenitor populations and thus helps ensure appropriate development of B cells and T cells in the bone marrow and thymic environments, respectively.

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