TGF-β type II receptor expression in thymic epithelial cells inhibits the development of Hassall's corpuscles in mice.
Odaka C., Hauri-Hohl M., Takizawa K., Nishikawa Y., Yano M., Matsumoto M., Boyd R., Holländer GA.
Hassall's corpuscles are concentric clusters of keratinized epithelial cells located within the thymic medulla of humans and guinea pigs but are scant in mouse and rat. They are considered to be the terminally differentiated stages of medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) but the mechanisms of their origin are unclear. We have previously deleted the TGF-β type II receptor (TGFβRII) specifically in mouse TECs and reported that these mice have mitigated thymic involution and exhibit earlier reconstitution post-irradiation. In this study, we analyzed the differentiation of mTECs in the TGFβRII-knockout mice. Interestingly, the TGFβRII-knockout mice display enhanced development of Hassall's corpuscles. The expression of Aire, stromal-cell-derived factor 1 and thymic stromal lymphopoietin in the thymi of the TGFβRII-knockout mice was similar to that previously reported for the human thymus. In addition, the putative epithelial progenitor markers MTS20 and MTS24 labeled Hassall's corpuscles in normal mice, but the extent and intensity of this staining were greatly enhanced in Hassall's corpuscles of the TGFβRII-knockout mice. The phosphorylated forms of ERK and JNK were also found in Hassall's corpuscles of the TGFβRII-knockout mice. Taken together, we suggest that TGFβRII-mediated signaling in TECs inhibits their development into Hassall's corpuscles in mice.