Deficiency of the metalloproteinase-disintegrin ADAM8 is associated with thymic hyper-cellularity.
Gossens K., Naus S., Holländer GA., Ziltener HJ.
BACKGROUND: Thymopoiesis requires thymocyte-stroma interactions and proteases that promote cell migration by degrading extracellular matrix and releasing essential cytokines and chemokines. A role for several members of the A Disintegrin and Metalloprotease (ADAM) family in T cell development has been reported in the past. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here, we present data indicating that the family member ADAM8 plays a role in thymic T cell development. We used qrtPCR on FACS sorted thymic subsets together with immunofluorescence to analyze thymic ADAM8 expression. We found that ADAM8 was expressed in murine thymic stromal cells and at lower levels in thymocytes where its expression increased as cell matured, suggesting involvement of ADAM8 in thymopoiesis. Further flow cytometry analysis revealed that ADAM8 deficient mice showed normal development and expansion of immature thymocyte subsets. There was however an intrathymic accumulation of single positive CD4 and CD8 T cells which was most noticeable in the late mature T cell subsets. Accumulation of single positive T cells coincided with changes in the thymic architecture manifest in a decreased cortex/medulla ratio and an increase in medullary epithelial cells as determined by histology and flow cytometry. The increase in single positive T cells was thymus-intrinsic, independent of progenitor homing to the thymus or thymic exit rate of mature T cells. Chemotaxis assays revealed that ADAM8 deficiency was associated with reduced migration of single positive thymocytes towards CCL21. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results show that ADAM8 is involved in T cell maturation in the medulla and suggest a role for this protease in fine-tuning maturation of thymocytes in the medulla. In contrast to ADAM10 and ADAM17 lack of ADAM8 appears to have a relatively minor impact on T cell development, which was unexpected given that maturation of thymocytes is dependent on proper localization and timing of migration.