Gene expression profiling during thymus ontogeny and its association with TCRVβ8.1-Dβ2.1 rearrangements of inbred mouse strains
Rearrangement of the T cell antigen receptor genes is a complex, highly regulated process. To gain a better understanding of the extracellular factors involved in the regulation of TCR beta and gamma gene rearrangement in adult murine bone marrow-resident precursor T cells, several cytokines were tested for their ability to induce gene recombination. A selected population of C58/J bone marrow cells (Thy 1(low), CD3, CD8, B220) that is enriched for pre-T cell activity was propagated in vitro in medium supplemented with IL-3 and mast cell growth factor (MGF, also referred to as stem cell factor, Steele factor and c-kit ligand). These cytokines were required for the maintenance of pre-T cell activity in culture, but had no effect on TCR gene expression. Several additional cytokines were added to the culture medium. Of all those tested, only IL-7 induced complete rearrangement of the TCR gamma locus. Complete rearrangement of the TCR beta locus was not induced under any of the culture conditions analysed here. The bone marrow cells cultured in IL-3, MGF and IL-7 did not begin to express mature T cell proteins and maintained their in vivo progenitor potential. Furthermore, IL-7 cultured bone marrow cells were capable of differentiation in vivo into all phenotypic subpopulations of T cells, without an apparent bias toward the gammadelta lineage. The data presented here suggest that TCR gamma gene rearrangement in adult pre-T cells is regulated by IL-7, but that the TCR beta locus requires additional or alternative signals for the induction of complete rearrangement.