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Nature. 2008 Apr 10;452(7188):764-7. doi: 10.1038/nature06840.

The earliest thymic progenitors for T cells possess myeloid lineage potential.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


There exists controversy over the nature of haematopoietic progenitors of T cells. Most T cells develop in the thymus, but the lineage potential of thymus-colonizing progenitors is unknown. One approach to resolving this question is to determine the lineage potentials of the earliest thymic progenitors (ETPs). Previous work has shown that ETPs possess T and natural killer lymphoid potentials, and rare subsets of ETPs also possess B lymphoid potential, suggesting an origin from lymphoid-restricted progenitor cells. However, whether ETPs also possess myeloid potential is unknown. Here we show that nearly all ETPs in adult mice possess both T and myeloid potential in clonal assays. The existence of progenitors possessing T and myeloid potential within the thymus is incompatible with the current dominant model of haematopoiesis, in which T cells are proposed to arise from lymphoid-. Our results indicate that alternative models for lineage commitment during haematopoiesis must be considered.

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