Involvement of CCR9 at multiple stages of adult T lymphopoiesis.
Svensson M., Marsal J., Uronen-Hansson H., Cheng M., Jenkinson W., Cilio C., Jacobsen SEW., Sitnicka E., Anderson G., Agace WW.
The chemokine CCL25 is constitutively expressed in the thymus, and its receptor CCR9 is expressed on subsets of developing thymocytes. Nevertheless, the function of CCL25/CCR9 in adult thymopoiesis remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that purified CCR9(-/-) hematopoietic stem cells are deficient in their ability to generate all major thymocyte subsets including double-negative 1 (DN1) cells in competitive transfers. CCR9(-/-) bone marrow contained normal numbers of lineage(-) Sca-1+c-kit+, common lymphoid progenitors, and lymphoid-primed multipotent progenitors (LMPP), and CCR9(-/-) LMPP showed similar T cell potential as their wild-type (WT) counterparts when cultured on OP9-delta-like 1 stromal cells. In contrast, early thymic progenitor and DN2 thymocyte numbers were reduced in the thymus of adult CCR9(-/-) mice. In fetal thymic organ cultures (FTOC), CCR9(-/-) DN1 cells were as efficient as WT DN1 cells in generating double-positive (DP) thymocytes; however, under competitive FTOC, CCR9(-/-) DP cell numbers were reduced significantly. Similarly, following intrathymic injection into sublethally irradiated recipients, CCR9(-/-) DN cells were out-competed by WT DN cells in generating DP thymocytes. Finally, in competitive reaggregation thymic organ cultures, CCR9(-/-) preselection DP thymocytes were disadvantaged significantly in their ability to generate CD4 single-positive (SP) thymocytes, a finding that correlated with a reduced ability to form TCR-MHC-dependent conjugates with thymic epithelial cells. Together, these results highlight a role for CCR9 at several stages of adult thymopoiesis: in hematopoietic progenitor seeding of the thymus, in the DN-DP thymocyte transition, and in the generation of CD4 SP thymocytes.