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Trends Immunol. 2010 Aug;31(8):303-10. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Jul 14.

Early T cell development and the pitfalls of potential.

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Department for Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The long-standing model for hematopoiesis, which features a dichotomy into separate lymphoid and myeloid branches, predicts that progenitor T cells arise from a lymphocyte-restricted pathway. However, experiments that have detected myeloid potential in progenitor T cells have been reported as evidence to question this model. Mapping physiological differentiation pathways has now led to opposite conclusions, by showing that T cells and thymic myeloid cells have distinct origins and that, in vivo, T cell progenitors lack significant potential for myeloid lineages including dendritic cells. Here, we review the underlying experiments that have led to such fundamentally different conclusions. The current controversy might reflect a need to distinguish between cell fates that are possible experimentally from physiological fate choices, to build a map of immunological differentiation pathways.

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