Long-term impairment in T cell–mediated adaptive immunity is a major clinical obstacle following treatment of blood disorders with hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Although T cell development in the thymus has been extensively characterized, there are significant gaps in our understanding of prethymic processes that influence early T cell potential. We have uncovered a Notch/IL-21 signaling axis in bone marrow common lymphoid progenitor (CLP) cells. IL-21 receptor expression was driven by Notch activation in CLPs, and in vivo treatment with IL-21 induced Notch-dependent CLP proliferation. Taking advantage of this potentially novel signaling axis, we generated T cell progenitors ex vivo, which improved repopulation of the thymus and peripheral lymphoid organs of mice in an allogeneic transplant model. Importantly, Notch and IL-21 activation were equally effective in the priming and expansion of human cord blood cells toward the T cell fate, confirming the translational potential of the combined treatment.
Kilian Sottoriva, Na Yoon Paik, Zachary White, Thilinie Bandara, Lijian Shao, Teruyuki Sano, Kostandin V. Pajcini