Ablation of thymic export causes accelerated decay of naïve CD4 T cells in the periphery because of activation by environmental antigen: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

C. Bourgeois, Z. Hao, K. Rajewsky, A.J. Potocnik, B. Stockinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A model of chemical thymectomy by inducible Rag ablation was used to study peripheral T cell homeostasis. Induction of Rag ablation was efficient and complete, leading to cessation of thymic T cell production within 3-4 weeks. The decay of peripheral T cells became apparent with a delay of an additional 2-3 weeks and was entirely accounted for by loss of naïve T cells, whereas numbers of memory phenotype and regulatory T cells were not decreased. Naïve CD4 T cells decayed with an average half-life of 50 days, whereas naïve CD8 T cells exhibited a considerably longer half-life. The rapid decay of naïve CD4 T cells was not caused by intrinsic survival differences compared with naïve CD8 T cells, but was caused by changes in the lymphopenic environment resulting in higher microbial load and consequential activation. This finding suggests that in lymphopenic conditions involving compromised thymic function replenishment and survival of a naïve CD4 T cell repertoire may be severely curtailed because of chronic activation. Such a scenario might play a role in the aging immune system and chronic viral infection, such as HIV infection, and contribute to loss of CD4 T cells and impaired immune function. As our data show, continued replenishment with cells from the thymus seems to be required to maintain efficient gut mucosal defense. © 2008 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8691-8696
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume105
Issue number25
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Keywords

  • CD4 depletion
  • Homeostasis
  • Lymphopenia
  • T cell life span
  • Thymus
  • aging
  • animal cell
  • animal experiment
  • animal tissue
  • article
  • CD4+ T lymphocyte
  • cell loss
  • cell survival
  • controlled study
  • Human immunodeficiency virus infection
  • immune system
  • mouse
  • nonhuman
  • priority journal
  • thymus
  • Animals
  • Antigens
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Thymus Gland

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