The choice of developing thymocytes to become CD8+ cytotoxic or CD4+ helper T cells has been intensely studied, but many of the underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Recent multiomics approaches have provided much higher resolution analysis of gene expression in developing thymocytes than was previously achievable, thereby offering a fresh perspective on this question. Focusing on our recent studies using CITE-seq (cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes) analyses of mouse thymocytes, we present a detailed timeline of RNA and protein expression changes during CD8 versus CD4 T cell differentiation. We also revisit our current understanding of the links between T cell receptor signaling and expression of the lineage-defining transcription factors ThPOK and RUNX3. Finally, we propose a sequential selection model to explain the tight linkage between MHC-I versus MHC-II recognition and T cell lineage choice. This model incorporates key aspects of previously proposed kinetic signaling, instructive, and stochastic/selection models.

Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 42 is April 2024. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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