Natural killer cell development and function precede ab T cell differentiation in mouse fetal thymic ontogeny

Carlyle, J. R., Michie, A. M. , Cho, S. K. and Zúñiga-Pflücker, J. C. (1998) Natural killer cell development and function precede ab T cell differentiation in mouse fetal thymic ontogeny. Journal of Immunology, 160(2), pp. 744-753. (PMID:9580246)

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Natural killer (NK) cells mediate MHC-unrestricted cytolysis of virus-infected cells and tumor cells. In the adult mouse, NK cells are bone marrow-derived lymphocytes that mature predominantly in extrathymic locations but have also been suggested to share a common intrathymic progenitor with T lymphocytes. However, mature NK cells are thought to be absent in mouse fetal ontogeny. We report the existence of thymocytes with a mature NK cell phenotype (NK1.1+/CD117−) as early as day 13 of gestation, approximately 3 days before the appearance of CD4+/CD8+ cells in T lymphocyte development. These mature fetal thymic NK cells express genes associated with NK cell effector function and, when freshly isolated, display MHC-unrestricted cytolytic activity in vitro. Moreover, the capacity of fetal thymic NK cells for sustained growth both in vitro and in vivo, in addition to their close phenotypic resemblance to early precursor thymocytes, confounds previous assessments of NK lineage precursor function. Thus, mature NK cells may have been inadvertently included in previous attempts to identify multipotent and bipotent precursor thymocytes. These results provide the first evidence of functional NK lymphocytes in mouse fetal ontogeny and demonstrate that NK cell maturation precedes αβ T cell development in the fetal thymus.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Michie, Professor Alison
Authors: Carlyle, J. R., Michie, A. M., Cho, S. K., and Zúñiga-Pflücker, J. C.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Cancer Sciences
Journal Name:Journal of Immunology
Publisher:American Association of Immunologists
ISSN (Online):1872-7905

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