Developmental dynamics of the neural crest-mesenchymal axis in creating the thymic microenvironment.
Handel AE., Cheuk S., Dhalla F., Maio S., Hübscher T., Rota I., Deadman ME., Ekwall O., Lütolf M., Weinberg K., Holländer G.
The thymic stroma is composed of epithelial and nonepithelial cells providing separate microenvironments controlling homing, differentiation, and selection of hematopoietic precursor cells to functional T cells. Here, we explore at single-cell resolution the complex composition and dynamic changes of the nonepithelial stromal compartment across different developmental stages in the human and mouse thymus, and in an experimental model of the DiGeorge syndrome, the most common form of human thymic hypoplasia. The detected gene expression signatures identify previously unknown stromal subtypes and relate their individual molecular profiles to separate differentiation trajectories and functions, revealing an unprecedented heterogeneity of different cell types that emerge at discrete developmental stages and vary in their expression of key regulatory signaling circuits and extracellular matrix components. Together, these findings highlight the dynamic complexity of the nonepithelial thymus stroma and link this to separate instructive roles essential for normal thymus organogenesis and tissue maintenance.