Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 16341216
Nat. Immunol. 2006 Jan;7(1):76-82
Thymic export of cells is believed to be restricted to mature T cells. Here we show that the thymus also exports fully committed T cell precursors that colonize primary lymphoid organs. These precursor cells exited the thymus before T cell receptor rearrangements and colonized lymphoid organs such as the thymus and the gut. Migration of the thymic T cell-committed precursors led to permanent colonization of the gut precursor compartment, improved the capacity of gut precursors to further differentiate into T cells and was sufficient for the generation of ‘euthymic like’ CD8alphaalpha(+) intraepithelial lymphocytes. These data demonstrate a new function for the thymus in peripheral seeding with T cell precursors that become long lived after thymus export.