Restoring T cell competence is a significant clinical challenge in patients whose thymic function is severely compromised due to age or cytoreductive conditioning. Here, we demonstrate in mice that mesenteric LNs (MLNs) support extrathymic T cell development in euthymic and athymic recipients of bone marrow transplantation (BMT). Furthermore, in aged murine BMT recipients, the contribution of the MLNs to the generation of T cells was maintained, while the contribution of the thymus was significantly impaired. Thymic impairment resulted in a proportional increase in extrathymic-derived T cell progenitors. Extrathymic development in athymic recipients generated conventional naive TCRαβ T cells with a broad Vβ repertoire and intact functional and proliferative potential. Moreover, in the absence of a functional thymus, immunity against known pathogens could be augmented using engineered precursor T cells with viral specificity. These findings demonstrate the potential of extrathymic T cell development for T cell reconstitution in patients with limited thymic function.
Amanda M. Holland, Johannes L. Zakrzewski, Jennifer J. Tsai, Alan M. Hanash, Jarrod A. Dudakov, Odette M. Smith, Mallory L. West, Natalie V. Singer, Jessie Brill, Joseph C. Sun, Marcel R.M. van den Brink