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Nat Immunol. 2006 Apr;7(4):418-26. Epub 2006 Mar 5.

Hedgehog signaling controls thymocyte progenitor homeostasis and differentiation in the thymus.

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Department of Medicine, Section of Rheumatology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Commitment of hematopoietic progenitors to the T cell lineage requires the integration of multiple signaling pathways. Evidence has suggested involvement of hedgehog (Hh) signaling in T cell differentiation through its signal transducer smoothened (Smo). However, the precise function of the Hh pathway remains controversial, mainly because T cell-specific in vivo genetic models have not been used. Using pre-T cell-specific, mature T cell-specific and poly(I).poly(C)-inducible deletions of Smo and antagonists of Smo signaling, we report here that Hh is an essential positive regulator of T cell progenitor differentiation. Furthermore, we localize Hh function to a stage preceding pre-T cell receptor signaling, connect Smo signaling to the activity of the Gli1 and Gli2 transcription factors and demonstrate that Hh affects regulators of thymocyte survival and proliferation.

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