p63, a homologue of the tumor suppressor p53, is pivotal for epithelial development, because its loss causes severe epithelial dysgenesis, although no information is so far available on the role of p63 in the thymus. We identified the expression of all p63 isoforms in the developing thymus. The p63 -/- thymi show severe abnormalities in size and cellularity, even though the organ expresses normal levels of keratins 5 and 8, indicating a p63-independent differentiation of thymic epithelial cells (TEC). TEC were sufficiently developed to allow a significant degree of education to produce CD4/CD8 single- and double-positive T cells. To study the selective contribution of transactivation-active p63 (TAp63) and amino-deleted p63 (ΔNp63) isoforms to the function of the TEC, we genetically complemented p63 -/- mice by crossing p63+/- mice with transgenic mice expressing either TAp63α or ΔNp63α under the control of the keratin 5 promoter. Thymic morphology and cellularity were partially restored by complementation with ΔNp63, but not TAp63, one downstream effector being fibroblast growth factor receptor 2-IIIb (FgfR2-IIIb). Indeed, FgfR2-IIIb is regulated directly by p63, via its interaction with apobec-1-binding protein-1, and its knockout shows thymic defects similar to those observed in p63 -/- thymi. In addition, expression of Jag2, a component of the Notch signaling pathway known to be required for thymic development, was enhanced by p63 in vivo genetic complementation. Like Jag2-/- thymi, p63 -/- thymi also show reduced γδ cell formation. Therefore, p63, and particularly the ΔNp63 isoform, is essential for thymic development via enhanced expression of FgfR2 and Jag2. The action of ΔNp63 is not due to a direct regulation of TEC differentiation, but it is compatible with maintenance of their "sternness," the thymic abnormalities resulting from epithelial failure due to loss of stem cells.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 17 2007|
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