Blood 2015 Jan 19;125(3):457-64. Epub 2014 Nov 19.
Institute of Immunology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany;
The origins of dendritic cells (DCs) and other myeloid cells in the thymus have remained controversial. In this study, we assessed developmental relationships between thymic dendritic cells and thymocytes, employing retrovirus-based cellular barcoding and reporter mice, as well as intrathymic transfers coupled with DC depletion. We demonstrated that a subset of early T-lineage progenitors expressed CX3CR1, a bona fide marker for DC progenitors. However, intrathymic transfers into nonmanipulated mice, as well as retroviral barcoding, indicated that thymic dendritic cells and thymocytes were largely of distinct developmental origin. In contrast, intrathymic transfers after in vivo depletion of DCs resulted in intrathymic development of non-T-lineage cells. In conclusion, our data support a model in which the adoption of T-lineage fate by noncommitted progenitors at steady state is enforced by signals from the thymic microenvironment unless niches promoting alternative lineage fates become available.