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Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2007;23:463-93.

The thymus as an inductive site for T lymphopoiesis.

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


Like all hematopoietic cells, T lymphocytes are derived from bone-marrow-resident stem cells. However, whereas most blood lineages are generated within the marrow, the majority of T cell development occurs in a specialized organ, the thymus. This distinction underscores the unique capacity of the thymic microenvironment to support T lineage restriction and differentiation. Although the identity of many of the contributing thymus-derived signals is well established and rooted in highly conserved pathways involving Notch, morphogenetic, and protein tyrosine kinase signals, the manner in which the ensuing cascades are integrated to orchestrate the underlying processes of T cell development remains under investigation. This review focuses on the current definition of the early stages of T cell lymphopoiesis, with an emphasis on the nature of thymus-derived signals delivered to T cell progenitors that support the commitment and differentiation of T cells toward the alphabeta and gammadelta T cell lineages.

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