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CD135 (Flk2/Flt3) expression by human thymocytes delineates a possible role of FLT3-ligand in T-cell precursor proliferation and differentiation



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Bertho JM, Chapel A, Loilleux S, Frick J, Aigueperse J, Gorin NC, Gourmelon P Scand J Immunol 2000 ;52(1):53-61


The expression of the Flk2/Flt3 molecule (CD135), the receptor for Flt3 ligand (FL), was investigated in the human thymus. Results showed that there is a high level of expression of CD135 by thymocyte populations, especially by intrathymic T-cell precursor populations. As these results suggested a role for FL in the regulation of thymic T-cell precursor differentiation and/or proliferation, we used an in vitro model of thymic stromal cell cultures in order to delineate the activity of FL on human CD7(high)CD3-CD4-CD8- triple negative intrathymic T-cell precursors. Results showed that FL, either alone or in combination with stem cell factor (SCF) induced the proliferation of CD7(high) precursors, but to a lower extent than interleukin-7 (IL-7) or IL-7 + SCF, used as positive controls. In the presence of FL + SCF, CD7(high) cells developed mainly towards a CD11b+ phenotype whereas IL-7 + SCF preferentially induce a CD3+TcRgammadelta+CD8+ phenotype. Taken together, these data suggest that FL may play a role in inducing the proliferation of CD7(high) human intrathymic T-cell precursors, but also in the induction of a myeloid differentiation pathway within the human thymus.