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Developmental Immunology
Volume 8 (2000), Issue 1, Pages 31-45

InVivo Detection of Intracellular Signaling Pathways in Developing Thymocytes

Department of Immunology, 1 King' College Circle, University of Toronto, Ontario, Toronto M5S 1A8, Canada

Received 29 October 1999

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Information regarding the intracellular signaling processes that occur during the development of T cells has largely been obtained with the use of transgenic mouse models, which although providing invaluable information are time consuming and costly. To this end, we have developed a novel system that facilitates the InVivo analysis of signal transduction pathways during T-lymphocyte development. This approach uses reporter-plasmids for the detection of intracellular signals mediated by the mitogen-activated protein kinase or cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase. Reporter-plasmids are transfected into thymocytes in fetal thymic organ culture by accelerated DNA/particle bombardment (gene gun), and the activation of a signaling pathway is determined in the form of a standard luciferase assay. Importantly, this powerful technique preserves the structural integrity of the thymus, and will provide an invaluable tool to study how thymocytes respond to normal environmental stimuli encountered during differentiation within the thymic milieu. Thus, this method allows for the monitoring of signals that occur in a biological time frame, such as during differentiation, and within the natural environment of differentiating cells.