In-vitro Generation of potent T-lymphoid Progenitors in a feeder-cell-free DL-4 system

Abstract : Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-mismatched haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) represents an important therapeutic option for patients lacking suitable donors. Delayed posttransplant immune recovery constitutes one of its major complications and is most pronounced in the T cellular compartment. A novel strategy to promote de novo thymopoiesis from donor derived HSCs and to accelerate T cellular reconstitution in patients after HSCT consists in the adoptive transfer of in vitro generated T cell progenitor cells. Identification of Notch1 as the key regulator of early T-lineage development has allowed the generation of Notch ligand-based culture systems, which provide a powerful tool to generate T-lymphoid progenitors in vitro. The efficacy of murine T-lymphoid progenitors to promote T cell reconstitution has been well demonstrated in conventional mouse models. In consistency, in vitro-generated human T cell progenitors were demonstrated to promote thymic recovery in humanized mice. Yet, positive effects of in vitro generated human T cell precursors on peripheral T cell reconstitution have not been demonstrated. Moreover currently used Notch-based co-culture systems consist of genetically modified murine cell lines. With view to establishing a clinically applicable system, feeder-cell-free Notch-ligand culture systems for the generation of T-lymphopoietic progenitors are warranted. During my PhD project I developed a new culture system based on the immobilized Notch ligand Delta-like-4 (DL-4). Exposure of human CD34+ cord blood cells to immobilized DL-4 enabled the in vitro generation of high number of T cell progenitors, which harboured the phenotype of immature early thymic progenitor cells (ETP) and prothymocytes (proT). ETP and proT cell generated during DL-4 culture upregulated essential genes involved in early T-lymphoid development (i.e. IL7Rα, PTα, RAG1 and BCL11b) and had undergone stage-specific recombination of the T cell receptor (TCR) locus in a similar way as in native human thymopoiesis. In limiting dilution analysis after secondary OP9/DL-1 co-culture, DL-4 progenitors displayed a highly increased T-lymphoid potential, which could be entirely attributed to the ETP and proT subset. When transferred into NOD/SCID/γc-/- mice, DL-4 primed T cell progenitors migrated to the thymus and accelerated intrathymic T cell differentiation and emergence of functional, mature and polyclonal αβ T cells in the periphery. In a co-transplantation approach, which more closely mimics a clinical setting, DL-4 progenitors and untreated CD34+ cells from HLA-disparate donors were simultaneously injected in the same recipient. This procedure allowed even more rapid and more robust T cell reconstitution. HLA-tracking of the distinct graft sources further showed, that DL-4 progenitors specifically reconstituted the T-lymphoid compartments. This work provides further evidence for the ability of in vitro-generated human T cell progenitors to promote de novo thymopoiesis and shows for the first time, that these cells accelerate peripheral T cell reconstitution in humanized mice. The availability of the efficient feeder-cell-free DL-4 culture technique represents an important step towards the future clinical exploitation translation of in vitro generated T-lymphoid progenitor cells to improve posttransplant immune reconstitution
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Christian Reimann. In-vitro Generation of potent T-lymphoid Progenitors in a feeder-cell-free DL-4 system. Human health and pathology. Université René Descartes - Paris V, 2012. English. ⟨NNT : 2012PA05T033⟩. ⟨tel-00771452⟩

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