Abstract

Whereas most T cells arise in the thymus, a distinct lineage of extrathymically derived T cells is present in the gut mucosa. The developmental origin of extrathymic T cells is poorly understood. We show here that Notch-1, a transmembrane receptor involved in T cell fate specification of bipotential T/B precursors in the thymus, is absolutely required for the development of extrathymic (as well as thymus-derived) mature T cells in the intestinal epithelium. In the absence of Notch-1, CD117(+) T cell precursors are relatively more abundant in the gut than the thymus, whereas immature B cells accumulate in the thymus but not the gut. Collectively, these data demonstrate that Notch-1 is essential for both thymic and extrathymic T cell fate specification and further suggest that bipotential T/B precursors that do not receive a Notch-1 signal adopt a B cell fate in the thymus but become developmentally arrested in the gut.

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