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Immunity. 2005 Jun;22(6):705-16.

Genetic evidence supporting selection of the Valpha14i NKT cell lineage from double-positive thymocyte precursors.

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Molecular Pathogenesis Program, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, 540 First Avenue, New York, New York 10016, USA.


Invariant Valpha14i NKT (iNKT) cells are a specialized subset of T lymphocytes with regulatory functions. They coexpress TCRalphabeta and natural killer cell markers. They differentiate through interaction of their Valpha14-Jalpha18 invariant TCRalpha chains with CD1d expressed on double-positive (DP) thymocytes. Although their development has been shown to be thymus dependent, their developmental pathway has not been definitively established. By using genetic analyses, we show here that all iNKT cells are selected from a pool of DP thymocytes. Their development is absolutely dependent on Runx1 and ROR(gamma)t, transcription factors that influence, but are not required for, development of conventional T cells. Our results indicate that even though CD1d binding DP thymocytes have yet to be observed, Valpha14-Jalpha18 rearrangement in these cells is required for development of iNKT cells.

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