Carmen Blum

Universität Ulm, Ulm, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany

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Publications (13)202.73 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Cell competition is an emerging principle underlying selection for cellular fitness during development and disease. Competition may be relevant for cancer, but an experimental link between defects in competition and tumorigenesis is elusive. In the thymus, T lymphocytes develop from precursors that are constantly replaced by bone-marrow-derived progenitors. Here we show that in mice this turnover is regulated by natural cell competition between 'young' bone-marrow-derived and 'old' thymus-resident progenitors that, although genetically identical, execute differential gene expression programs. Disruption of cell competition leads to progenitor self-renewal, upregulation of Hmga1, transformation, and T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL) resembling the human disease in pathology, genomic lesions, leukaemia-associated transcripts, and activating mutations in Notch1. Hence, cell competition is a tumour suppressor mechanism in the thymus. Failure to select fit progenitors through cell competition may explain leukaemia in X-linked severe combined immune deficiency patients who showed thymus-autonomous T-cell development after therapy with gene-corrected autologous progenitors.
    Nature 05/2014; · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Expression of the pre-T cell receptor α (pTα) gene has been exploited in previous studies as a molecular marker to identify tiny cell populations in bone marrow (BM) and blood that were suggested to contain physiologically relevant thymus settling progenitors (TSPs). But to what extent these cells genuinely contribute to thymopoiesis has remained obscure. We have generated a novel pTα(iCre) knockin mouse line and performed lineage-tracing experiments to precisely quantitate the contribution of pTα-expressing progenitors to distinct differentiation pathways and to the genealogy of mature hematopoietic cells under physiological in vivo conditions. Using these mice in combination with fluorescent reporter strains, we observe highly consistent labeling patterns that identify pTα expression as a faithful molecular marker of T lineage commitment. Specifically, the fate of pTα-expressing progenitors was found to include all αβ and most γδ T cells but, in contrast to previous assumptions, to exclude B, NK, and thymic dendritic cells. Although we could detect small numbers of T cell progenitors with a history of pTα expression in BM and blood, our data clearly exclude these populations as physiologically important precursors of thymopoiesis and indicate that they instead belong to a pathway of T cell maturation previously defined as extrathymic.
    Journal of Experimental Medicine 03/2013; · 13.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Expression of the pre-T cell receptor α (pTα) gene has been exploited in previous studies as a molecular marker to identify tiny cell populations in bone marrow (BM) and blood that were suggested to contain physiologically relevant thymus settling progenitors (TSPs). But to what extent these cells genuinely contribute to thymopoiesis has remained obscure. We have generated a novel pTαiCre knockin mouse line and performed lineage-tracing experiments to precisely quantitate the contribution of pTα-expressing progenitors to distinct differentiation pathways and to the genealogy of mature hematopoietic cells under physiological in vivo conditions. Using these mice in combination with fluorescent reporter strains, we observe highly consistent labeling patterns that identify pTα expression as a faithful molecular marker of T lineage commitment. Specifically, the fate of pTα-expressing progenitors was found to include all αβ and most γδ T cells but, in contrast to previous assumptions, to exclude B, NK, and thymic dendritic cells. Although we could detect small numbers of T cell progenitors with a history of pTα expression in BM and blood, our data clearly exclude these populations as physiologically important precursors of thymopoiesis and indicate that they instead belong to a pathway of T cell maturation previously defined as extrathymic.
    Journal of Experimental Medicine 03/2013; · 13.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The cellular differentiation pathway originating from the bone marrow leading to early T lymphocytes remains poorly understood. The view that T cells branch off from a lymphoid-restricted pathway has recently been challenged by a model proposing a common progenitor for T cell and myeloid lineages. We generated interleukin-7 receptor alpha (Il7r) Cre recombinase knockin mice and traced lymphocyte development by visualizing the history of Il7r expression. Il7r fate mapping labeled all T cells but few myeloid cells. More than 85% of T cell progenitors were Il7r reporter(+) and, hence, had arisen from an Il7r-expressing pathway. In contrast, the overwhelming majority of myeloid cells in the thymus were derived from Il7r reporter(-) cells. Thus, lymphoid-restricted progenitors are the major route to T cells, and distinct origins of lymphoid and myeloid lineages represent a fundamental hallmark of hematopoiesis.
    Immunity 03/2010; 32(3):426-36. · 19.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dppa4 (developmental pluripotency-associated 4) has been identified in several high-profile screens as a gene that is expressed exclusively in pluripotent cells. It encodes a nuclear protein with an SAP-like domain and appears to be associated preferentially with transcriptionally active chromatin. Its exquisite expression pattern and results of RNA interference experiments have led to speculation that Dppa4, as well as its nearby homolog Dppa2, might play essential roles in embryonic stem (ES) cell function and/or germ cell development. To rigorously assess suggested roles, we have generated Dppa4-deficient and Dppa4/Dppa2 doubly deficient ES cells, as well as mice lacking Dppa4. Contrary to predictions, we find that Dppa4 is completely dispensable for ES cell identity and germ cell development. Instead, loss of Dppa4 in mice results in late embryonic/perinatal death and striking skeletal defects with partial penetrance. Thus, surprisingly, Dppa4-deficiency affects tissues that apparently never transcribed the gene, and at least some loss-of-function defects manifest phenotypically at an embryonic stage long after physiologic Dppa4 expression has ceased. Concomitant with targeted gene inactivation, we have introduced into the Dppa4 locus a red fluorescent marker (tandem-dimer red fluorescent protein) that is compatible with green fluorescent proteins and allows noninvasive visualization of pluripotent cells and reprogramming events.
    Molecular and cellular biology 04/2009; 29(11):3186-203. · 6.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Notch1 signaling is required for T cell development and has been implicated in fate decisions in the thymus. We showed that Notch1 deletion in progenitor T cells (pro-T cells) revealed their latent developmental potential toward becoming conventional and plasmacytoid dendritic cells. In addition, Notch1 deletion in pro-T cells resulted in large numbers of thymic B cells, previously explained by T-to-B cell fate conversion. Single-cell genotyping showed, however, that the majority of these thymic B cells arose from Notch1-sufficient cells by a cell-extrinsic pathway. Fate switching nevertheless exists for a subset of thymic B cells originating from Notch1-deleted pro-T cells. Chimeric mice lacking the Notch ligand delta-like 4 (Dll4) in thymus epithelium revealed an essential role for Dll4 in T cell development. Thus, Notch1-Dll4 signaling fortifies T cell commitment by suppressing non-T cell lineage potential in pro-T cells, and normal Notch1-driven T cell development repels excessive B cells in the thymus.
    Immunity 01/2009; 30(1):67-79. · 19.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The human Mixed-Lineage-Leukemia-5 (MLL5) gene is located in a genomic region frequently deleted in patients with myeloid malignancies and encodes a widely expressed nuclear protein most closely related to MLL1, a Trithorax transcriptional regulator with established involvement in leukemogenesis. Although the physiologic function of MLL5 is completely unknown, domain structure and homology to transcriptional regulators with histone methyltransferase activity suggest a role in epigenetic gene regulation. To investigate physiologic functions of Mll5, we have generated a knockout mouse mutant using Cre/loxP technology. Adult homozygous Mll5-deficient mice are obtained at reduced frequency because of postnatal lethality. Surviving animals display a variety of abnormalities, including male infertility, retarded growth, and defects in multiple hematopoietic lineages. Interestingly, Mll5(-/-) mice die of sublethal whole-body irradiation but can be rescued with wild-type bone marrow grafts. Flow cytometric ana-lysis, bone marrow reconstitution, and in vivo BrdU-labeling experiments reveal numerical, functional, and cell-cycle defects in the lineage-negative Sca-1(+), Kit(+) (LSK) population, which contains short- and long-term hematopoietic stem cells. Together, these in vivo findings establish several nonredundant functions for Mll5, including an essential role in regulating proliferation and functional integrity of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells.
    Blood 11/2008; 113(7):1444-54. · 9.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The endodermal epithelial thymus anlage develops in tight association with neural crest (NC)-derived mesenchyme. This epithelial-NC interaction is crucial for thymus development, but it is not known how NC supports thymus development or whether NC cells or their progeny make any significant contribution to the adult thymus. By nude mouse blastocyst complementation and by cell surface phenotype, we could previously separate thymus stroma into Foxn1-dependent epithelial cells and a Foxn1-independent mesenchymal cell population. These mesenchymal cells expressed vascular endothelial growth factor-A, and contributed to thymus vascularization. These data suggested a physical or functional association with thymic blood vessels, but the origin, location in the thymus, and function of these stromal cells remained unknown. Using a transgenic mouse expressing Cre recombinase in premigratory NC (Sox10-Cre), we have now fate-mapped the majority of these adult mesenchymal cells to a NC origin. NC-derived cells represent tightly vessel-associated pericytes that are sandwiched between endothelium and epithelium along the entire thymus vasculature. The ontogenetic, phenotypic, and positional definition of this distinct perivascular mesenchymal compartment provides a cellular basis for the role of NC in thymus development and possibly maintenance, and might be useful to address properties of the endothelial-epithelial barrier in the adult thymus.
    The Journal of Immunology 05/2008; 180(8):5344-51. · 5.52 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: T cell homeostasis is essential for the functioning of the vertebrate immune system, but the intracellular signals required for T cell homeostasis are largely unknown. We here report that the WD-repeat protein family member coronin-1, encoded by the gene Coro1a, is essential in the mouse for T cell survival through its promotion of Ca2+ mobilization from intracellular stores. Upon T cell receptor triggering, coronin-1 was essential for the generation of inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate from phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate. The absence of coronin-1, although it did not affect T cell development, resulted in a profound defect in Ca2+ mobilization, interleukin-2 production, T cell proliferation and T cell survival. We conclude that coronin-1, through activation of Ca2+ release from intracellular stores, is an essential regulator of peripheral lymphocyte survival.
    Nature Immunology 03/2008; 9(4):424-431. · 26.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The considerable potential of Cre recombinase as a tool for in vivo fate-mapping studies depends on the availability of reliable reporter mice. By targeting a tandem-dimer red fluorescent protein (tdRFP) with advanced spectral and biological properties into the ubiquitously expressed ROSA26 locus of C57BL/6-ES cells, we have generated a novel inbred Cre-reporter mouse with several unique characteristics. We directly demonstrate the usefulness of our reporter strain in inter-crosses with a "universal Cre-deleter" strain and with mice expressing Cre recombinase in a T lineage-specific manner. Cytofluorometric and histological analyses illustrate: (i) non-toxicity and extraordinary brightness of the fluorescent reporter, allowing quantitative detection and purification of labeled cells with highest accuracy, (ii) reliable Cre-mediated activation of tdRFP from an antisense orientation relative to ROSA26 transcription, effectively excluding "leaky" reporter expression, (iii) absence of gene expression variegation effects, (iv) quantitative detection of tdRFP-expressing cells even in paraformaldehyde-fixed tissue sections, and (v) full compatibility with GFP/YFP-based fluorescent markers in multicolor experiments. Taken together, the data show that our C57BL/6-inbred reporter mice are ideally suited for sophisticated lineage-tracing experiments requiring sensitive and quantitative detection/purification of live Cre-expressing cells and their progeny.
    European Journal of Immunology 02/2007; 37(1):43-53. · 4.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The thymus organ supports the development of T cells and is located in the thorax. Here, we report the existence of a second thymus in the mouse neck, which develops after birth and grows to the size of a small lymph node. The cervical thymus had a typical medulla-cortex structure, was found to support T cell development, and could correct T cell deficiency in athymic nude mice upon transplantation. The identification of a regular second thymus in the mouse may provide evolutionary links to thymus organogenesis in other vertebrates and suggests a need to reconsider the effect of thoracic thymectomy on de novo T cell production.
    Science 05/2006; 312(5771):284-7. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mast cell carboxypeptidase A (Mc-cpa) is a highly conserved secretory granule protease. The onset of expression in mast cell progenitors and lineage specificity suggest an important role for Mc-cpa in mast cells. To address the function of Mc-cpa, we generated Mc-cpa-null mice. Mc-cpa-/- mast cells lacked carboxypeptidase activity, revealing that Mc-cpa is a nonredundant enzyme. While Mc-cpa-/- peritoneal mast cells were ultrastructurally normal and synthesized normal amounts of heparin, they displayed striking histochemical and biochemical hallmarks of immature mast cells. Wild-type peritoneal mast cells had a mature phenotype characterized by differential histochemical staining with proteoglycan-reactive dyes (cells do not stain with alcian blue but stain with safranin and with berberine) and a high side scatter to forward scatter ratio by flow cytometry and were detergent resistant. In contrast, Mc-cpa-/- peritoneal mast cells, like immature bone marrow-derived cultured mast cells, stained with alcian blue normally or weakly and either did not stain with safranin and berberine or stained weakly, had a low side scatter to forward scatter ratio, and were detergent sensitive. This phenotype was partially ameliorated with age. Thus, histochemistry and flow cytometry, commonly used to measure mast cell maturation, deviated from morphology in Mc-cpa-/- mice. The Mc-cpa-/- mast cell phenotype was not associated with defects in degranulation in vitro or passive cutaneous anaphylaxis in vivo. Collectively, Mc-cpa plays a crucial role for the generation of phenotypically mature mast cells.
    Molecular and Cellular Biology 08/2005; 25(14):6199-210. · 5.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The thymus harbors an organ-typical dense network of branching and anastomosing blood vessels. To address the molecular basis for morphogenesis of this thymus-specific vascular pattern, we have inactivated a key vascular growth factor, VEGF-A, in thymus epithelial cells (TECs). Both Vegf-A alleles were deleted in TECs by a complementation strategy termed nude mouse [mutated in the transcription factor Foxn1 (forkhead box N1)] blastocyst complementation. Injection of Foxn1(+/+) ES cells into Foxn1(nu/nu) blastocysts reconstituted a functional thymus. By dissecting thymus stromal cell subsets, we have defined, in addition to medullary TECs (mTECs) and cortical TECs (cTECs), another prominent stromal cell subset designated cortical mesenchymal cells (cMes). In chimeric thymi, mTECs and cTECs but not cMes were exclusively ES cell-derived. According to this distinct origin, the Vegf-A gene was deleted in mTECs and cTECs, whereas cMes still expressed Vegf-A. This genetic mosaic was associated with hypovascularization and disruption of the organ-typical network of vascular arcades. Thus, vascular growth factor production by TECs is required for normal thymus vascular architecture. These experiments provide insights into Foxn1-dependent and Foxn1-independent stromal cell development and demonstrate the value of this chimeric approach to analyzing gene function in thymus epithelium.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2005; 102(30):10587-92. · 9.74 Impact Factor