Two main lineages of T cells develop in the thymus: those that express the αβ T-cell receptor (TCR) and those that express the γδ TCR. Whereas the development, selection, and peripheral localization of newly differentiated αβ T cells are understood in some detail, these processes are less well characterized in γδ T cells. This review describes research carried out in this laboratory and others, which addresses several key aspects of γδ T-cell development, including the decision of precursor cells to differentiate into the γδ versus αβ lineage, the ordered differentiation over the course of ontogeny of functional γδ T-cell subsets expressing distinct TCR structures, programming of ordered Vγ gene rearrangement in the thymus, including a molecular switch that ensures appropriate Vγ rearrangements at the appropriate stage of development, positive selection in the thymus of γδ T cells destined for the epidermis, and the acquisition by developing γδ T cells of cues that determine their correct localization in the periphery. This research suggests a coordination of molecularly programmed events and cellular selection, which enables specialization of the thymus for production of distinct T-cell subsets at different stages of development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy