TRAF3 enforces the requirement for T cell cross-talk in thymic medullary epithelial development

S. Rhiannon Jenkinson, Joy A. Williams, Hyein Jeon, Jingjing Zhang, Takeshi Nitta, Izumi Ohigashi, Michael Kruhlak, Saulius Zuklys, Susan Sharrow, Anthony Adams, Larry Granger, Yongwon Choi, Ulrich Siebenlist, Gail A. Bishop, Georg A. Hollander, Yousuke Takahama, Richard J. Hodes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Induction of self-tolerance in developing T cells depends on medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs), whose development, in turn, requires signals from single-positive (SP) thymocytes. Thus, the absence of SP thymocytes in Tcra-/- mice results in a profound deficiency in mTECs. Here, we have probed the mechanism that underlies this requirement for cross-talk with thymocytes in medullary development. Previous studies have implicated nonclassical NF-κB as a pathway important in the development of mTECs, because mice lacking RelB, NIK, or IKKα, critical components of this pathway, have an almost complete absence of mTECs, with resulting autoimmune pathology. We therefore assessed the effect of selective deletion in TEC of TNF receptor-associated factor 3 (TRAF3), an inhibitor of nonclassical NF-κB signaling. Deletion of TRAF3 in thymic epithelial cells allowed RelB-dependent development of normal numbers of AIRE-expressing mTECs in the complete absence of SP thymocytes. Thus, mTEC development can occur in the absence of cross-talk with SP thymocytes, and signals provided by SP T cells are needed to overcome TRAF3-imposed arrest in mTEC development mediated by inhibition of nonclassical NF-κB. We further observed that TRAF3 deletion is also capable of overcoming all requirements for LTβR and CD40, which are otherwise necessary for mTEC development, but is not sufficient to overcome the requirement for RANKL, indicating a role for RANKL that is distinct from the signals provided by SP thymocytes. We conclude that TRAF3 plays a central role in regulation of mTEC development by imposing requirements for SP T cells and costimulation-mediated cross-talk in generation of the medullary compartment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21107-21112
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2013


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