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Nat Immunol. 2016 Dec;17(12):1415-1423. doi: 10.1038/ni.3560. Epub 2016 Sep 26.

Timing and duration of MHC I positive selection signals are adjusted in the thymus to prevent lineage errors.

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Experimental Immunology Branch, National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Laboratory of Mammalian Genes and Development, Eunice Kennedy Schriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.
Department of Immunology, Chiba University, Chiba, Japan.


Major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) positive selection of CD8+ T cells in the thymus requires that T cell antigen receptor (TCR) signaling end in time for cytokines to induce Runx3d, the CD8-lineage transcription factor. We examined the time required for these events and found that the overall duration of positive selection was similar for all CD8+ thymocytes in mice, despite markedly different TCR signaling times. Notably, prolonged TCR signaling times were counter-balanced by accelerated Runx3d induction by cytokines and accelerated differentiation into CD8+ T cells. Consequently, lineage errors did not occur except when MHC I-TCR signaling was so prolonged that the CD4-lineage-specifying transcription factor ThPOK was expressed, preventing Runx3d induction. Thus, our results identify a compensatory signaling mechanism that prevents lineage-fate errors by dynamically modulating Runx3d induction rates during MHC I positive selection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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