• T cells;
  • T-cell receptor genes;
  • Transcription factors;
  • VDJ recombination

Ikaros is important in the development and maintenance of the lymphoid system, functioning in part by associating with chromatin-remodeling complexes. We have studied the functions of Ikaros in the transition from pre-T cell to the CD4+CD8+ thymocyte using an Ikaros null CD4CD8 mouse thymoma cell line (JE131). We demonstrate that this cell line carries a single functional TCR β gene rearrangement and expresses a surface pre-TCR. JE131 cells also carry nonfunctional rearrangements on both alleles of their TCR α loci. Retroviral reintroduction of Ikaros dramatically increased the rate of transcription in the α locus and TCR Vα/Jα recombination resulting in the appearance of many new αβTCR+ cells. The process is RAG dependent, requires switch/sucrose nonfermentable chromatin-remodeling complexes and is coincident with the binding of Ikaros to the TCR α enhancer. Furthermore, knockdown of Mi2/nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase complexes increased the frequency of TCR α rearrangement. Our data suggest that Ikaros controls Vα/Jα recombination in T cells by controlling access of the transcription and recombination machinery to the TCR α loci. The JE131 cell line should prove to be a very useful tool for studying the molecular details of this and other processes involved in the pre-T cell to αβTCR+ CD4+CD8+ thymocyte transition.