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A Thymic Precursor to the NK T Cell Lineage

Science  19 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5567, pp. 553-555
DOI: 10.1126/science.1069017

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Abstract

CD1d-restricted autoreactive natural killer (NK1.1+) T cells function as regulatory cells in various disease conditions. Using improved tetramer tracking methodology, we identified a NK1.1 thymic precursor and followed its differentiation and emigration to tissues by direct cell transfer and in situ cell labeling studies. A major lineage expansion occurred within the thymus after positive selection and before NK receptor expression. Surprisingly, cytokine analysis of the developmental intermediates between NK and NK+ stages showed a T helper cell TH2 to TH1 conversion, suggesting that the regulatory functions of NK T cells may be developmentally controlled. These findings characterize novel thymic and postthymic developmental pathways that expand autoreactive cells and differentiate them into regulatory cells.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: abendelac{at}molbio.princeton.edu

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