TNF receptor family signaling in the development and functions of medullary thymic epithelial cells

Akiyama, Taishin; Shinzawa, Miho; Akiyama, Nobuko
August 2012
Frontiers in Immunology;Aug2012, Vol. 3, preceding p1
Academic Journal
Thymic epithelial cells (TECs) provide the microenvironment required for the development of T cells in the thymus. A unique property of medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) is their expression of a wide range of tissue-restricted self-antigens, critically regulated by the nuclear protein Aire, which contributes to the selection of the self-tolerant T cell repertoire, thereby suppressing the onset of autoimmune diseases. The TNF receptor family protein receptor activator of NF-κB (RANK), CD40 and lymphotoxin β receptor (LtβR) regulate the development and functions of mTECs. The engagement of these receptors with their specific ligands results in the activation of the NF-κB family of transcription factors. Two NF-κB activation pathways, the classical and non-classical pathways, promote the development of mature mTECs induced by these receptors. Consistently, TNF receptor-associated factor (TRAF6), the signal transducer of the classical pathway, and NF-κB inducing kinase (NIK), the signal transducer of the non-classical pathway, are essential for the development of mature mTECs. This review summarizes the current understanding of how the signaling by the TNF receptor family controls the development and functions of mTEC.


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