Betaglycan (TβRIII) Is Expressed in the Thymus and Regulates T Cell Development by Protecting Thymocytes from Apoptosis
TGF-β type III receptor (TβRIII) is a coreceptor for TGFβ family members required for high-affinity binding of these ligands to their receptors, potentiating their cellular functions. TGF-β –, bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP2/4) and inhibins regulate different checkpoints during T cell differentiation. Although TβRIII is expressed on hematopoietic cells, the role of this receptor in the immune system remains elusive. Here, we provide the first evidence that TβRIII is developmentally expressed during T cell ontogeny, and plays a crucial role in thymocyte differentiation. Blocking of endogenous TβRIII in fetal thymic organ cultures led to a delay in DN-DP transition. In addition, in vitro development of TβRIII−/− thymic lobes also showed a significant reduction in absolute thymocyte numbers, which correlated with increased thymocyte apoptosis, resembling the phenotype reported in Inhibin α −/− thymic lobes. These data suggest that Inhibins and TβRIII may function as a molecular pair regulating T cell development.