T cell development occurs in the thymus and is a highly regulated process to ensure that T cell progenitors acquire the ability to recognise foreign antigens but not self-antigens. Autoimmunity occurs when self-reactive T cell progenitors are allowed to mature and exit into peripheral tissues. The maturation and selection of progenitors is dependent on interactions with a broad range of antigen-presenting cells and other specialised stromal cells the thymus.
We postulate that abnormalities in thymic stromal cell populations may contribute to the development of autoimmunity. To investigate this, this project will profile and compare the thymic stromal populations between autoimmune-prone and autoimmune-resistant strains of mice. Potentially, there may differences in the number or phenotype of specific populations between these two groups of mice.