Foxn1 Is Dynamically Regulated in Thymic Epithelial Cells during Embryogenesis and at the Onset of Thymic Involution

Kathy E O'Neill, Nicholas Bredenkamp, Christin Tischner, Harsh J Vaidya, Frances H Stenhouse, C Diana Peddie, Craig S Nowell, Terri Gaskell, C Clare Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Thymus function requires extensive cross-talk between developing T-cells and the thymic epithelium, which consists of cortical and medullary TEC. The transcription factor FOXN1 is the master regulator of TEC differentiation and function, and declining Foxn1 expression with age results in stereotypical thymic involution. Understanding of the dynamics of Foxn1 expression is, however, limited by a lack of single cell resolution data. We have generated a novel reporter of Foxn1 expression, Foxn1G, to monitor changes in Foxn1 expression during embryogenesis and involution. Our data reveal that early differentiation and maturation of cortical and medullary TEC coincides with precise sub-lineage-specific regulation of Foxn1 expression levels. We further show that initiation of thymic involution is associated with reduced cTEC functionality, and proportional expansion of FOXN1-negative TEC in both cortical and medullary sub-lineages. Cortex-specific down-regulation of Foxn1 between 1 and 3 months of age may therefore be a key driver of the early stages of age-related thymic involution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0151666
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2016

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