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Blood. 2005 Nov 15;106(10):3498-506. Epub 2005 Jul 19.

Different thresholds of Notch signaling bias human precursor cells toward B-, NK-, monocytic/dendritic-, or T-cell lineage in thymus microenvironment.

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Department of Clinical Chemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, Ghent University, University Hospital Ghent, Belgium.


Notch receptors are involved in lineage decisions in multiple developmental scenarios, including hematopoiesis. Here, we treated hybrid human-mouse fetal thymus organ culture with the gamma-secretase inhibitor 7 (N-[N-(3,5-difluorophenyl)-l-alanyl]-S-phenyl-glycine t-butyl ester) (DAPT) to establish the role of Notch signaling in human hematopoietic lineage decisions. The effect of inhibition of Notch signaling was studied starting from cord blood CD34(+) or thymic CD34(+)CD1(-), CD34(+)CD1(+), or CD4ISP progenitors. Treatment of cord blood CD34(+) cells with low DAPT concentrations results in aberrant CD4ISP and CD4/CD8 double-positive (DP) thymocytes, which are negative for intracellular T-cell receptor beta (TCRbeta). On culture with intermediate and high DAPT concentrations, thymic CD34(+)CD1(-) cells still generate aberrant intracellular TCRbeta(-) DP cells that have undergone DJ but not VDJ recombination. Inhibition of Notch signaling shifts differentiation into non-T cells in a thymic microenvironment, depending on the starting progenitor cells: thymic CD34(+)CD1(+) cells do not generate non-T cells, thymic CD34(+)CD1(-) cells generate NK cells and monocytic/dendritic cells, and cord blood CD34(+)Lin(-) cells generate B, NK, and monocytic/dendritic cells in the presence of DAPT. Our data indicate that Notch signaling is crucial to direct human progenitor cells into the T-cell lineage, whereas it has a negative impact on B, NK, and monocytic/dendritic cell generation in a dose-dependent fashion.

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