Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology



First Thesis Advisor

Joonsoo Kang, Ph.D.


Immunity, Innate, T-Lymphocytes, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, Genes, T-Cell Receptor


The immune system generates discrete lineages of cells that are designed to respond optimally to environmental cues and infectious agents. Two distinct lineages of T cells, distinguished by expression of either an αβ or γδ T cell receptor (TCR), arise from a common progenitor in the thymus. The type of pathogen and the cytokine milieu directs effector differentiation of αβ T cells in the periphery through the induction of specific transcriptional networks. γδ T cell development is distinct from that of αβ T cells in its ordered rearrangement of TCR genes and the pairing of Vγ and Vδ chains to generate γδ T cell subsets that home to specific tissues. Unlike conventional αβ T cells, γδ T cells express a preactivated or memory phenotype prior to pathogen encounter, and recent evidence indicates that effector functions may be programmed during thymic development. To better understand the development and function of γδ T cells, we analyzed the gene expression profiles of subsets of γδ T cells segregated by TCR repertoire and maturation state in the thymus. We also determined the impact of TCR signaling and trans-conditioning on γδ T cell subset-specific gene signatures by analysis of Itk-/- and Tcrb-/- γδ T cell subsets. Our analysis has defined three stages of γδ T cell subset-specific differentiation, and indicates that γδ T cells may consist of at least two separate lineages, distinguished by the expression of a Vγ2 or Vγ1.1 TCR, that arise from different precursors during thymic development. Key transcriptional networks are established in immature γδ T cells during the first phase of development, independent of TCR signaling and trans-conditioning, with Vγ2+ cells expressing modulators of WNT signaling, and Vγ1.1+ cells expressing high levels of inhibitor of DNA binding 3 (ID3), which regulates E2A/HEB proteins. The second stage involves the further specification of the Vγ2+ subset specific gene signature, which is dependent upon ITK-mediated signals. In the third stage, terminal maturation of γδ T cell subsets occurs, dependent on both TCR and trans-conditioning signals. The expression patterns of Vγ1.1+ subsets that differ in Vδ usage diverge, and all subsets further elaborate and reinforce their effector programming by the distinct expression of chemokine and cytokine receptors. Alteration of WNT signaling or E2A/HEB activity results in subset specific defects in effector programming, indicating that the transcriptional networks established at the immature stage are crucial for the functional maturation of γδ T cells. These data provide a new picture of γδ T cell development, regulated by multiple checkpoints that shape the acquisition of subset-specific molecular signatures and effector functions.



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