Survivin is an inhibitor of apoptosis protein that also functions during mitosis. It is expressed in all common tumors and tissues with proliferating cells, including thymus. To examine its role in apoptosis and proliferation, we generated two T cell-specific survivin-deficient mouse lines with deletion occurring at different developmental stages. Analysis of early deleting survivin mice showed arrest at the pre-T cell receptor proliferating checkpoint. Loss of survivin at a later stage resulted in normal thymic development, but peripheral T cells were immature and significantly reduced in number. In contrast to in vitro studies, loss of survivin does not lead to increased apoptosis. However, newborn thymocyte homeostatic and mitogen-induced proliferation of survivin-deficient T cells were greatly impaired. These data suggest that survivin is not essential for T cell apoptosis but is crucial for T cell maturation and proliferation, and survivin-mediated homeostatic expansion is an important physiological process of T cell development.
- T cell development