T cell development in the thymus undergoes the process of differentiation, selective proliferation and survival from CD4-CD8- double negative (DN) stage to CD4+CD8+ double positive (DP) stage prior to the formation of CD4+ helper and CD8+ cytolytic T cells ready for circulation. Each developmental stage is tightly regulated by sequentially-operating molecular networks, of which only limited numbers of transcription regulators have been deciphered. Here we identified Zfp335 transcription factor as a new player in the regulatory network controlling thymocyte development. We demonstrate that Zfp335 intrinsically controls DN to DP transition, as T cell-specific deficiency in Zfp335 leads to a substantial accumulation of DN3 along with reduction of DP, CD4+ and CD8+ thymocytes. This developmental blockade at DN stage results from the impaired intracellular TCRβ expression as well as increased susceptibility to apoptosis in thymocytes. Transcriptomic and ChIP-seq analyses revealed a direct regulation of transcription factors Bcl6 and Rorc by Zfp335. Importantly, enhanced expression of TCRβ and Bcl6/RorγT restores the developmental defect during DN3 to DN4 transition and improves thymocytes survival, respectively. These findings identify a critical role of Zfp335 in controlling T cell development by maintaining intracellular TCRβ expression-mediated β-selection and independently activating cell survival signaling.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.11.21.469458