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Semi-invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are self-reactive lymphocytes, yet how this lineage attains self-tolerance remains unknown. iNKT cells constitutively express high levels of Nr4a1-encoded Nur77, a transcription factor that integrates signal strength downstream of the T cell receptor (TCR) within activated thymocytes and peripheral T cells. The function of Nur77 in iNKT cells is unknown. Here we report that sustained Nur77 overexpression (Nur77tg) in mouse thymocytes abrogates iNKT cell development. Introgression of a rearranged Vα14-Jα18 TCR-α chain gene into the Nur77tg (Nur77tg;Vα14tg) mouse rescued iNKT cell development up to the early precursor stage, stage 0. iNKT cells in bone marrow chimeras that reconstituted thymic cellularity developed beyond stage 0 precursors and yielded IL-4-producing NKT2 cell subset but not IFN-γ-producing NKT1 cell subset. Nonetheless, the developing thymic iNKT cells that emerged in these chimeras expressed the exhaustion marker PD1 and responded poorly to a strong glycolipid agonist. Thus, Nur77 integrates signals emanating from the TCR to control thymic iNKT cell tolerance induction, terminal differentiation, and effector functions.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc natl acad sci u s a

Publication Date





17156 - 17165


Nur77, development, function, iNKT cells, Animals, Cell Differentiation, Cells, Cultured, Immune Tolerance, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Natural Killer T-Cells, Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, Thymocytes