The β-selection checkpoint of T cell development tests whether the cell has recombined its genomic DNA to produce a functional T cell receptor β (TCRβ). Passage through the β-selection checkpoint requires the nascent TCRβ protein to mediate signaling through a pre-TCR complex. In this study, we show that developing T cells at the β-selection checkpoint establish an immunological synapse in in vitro and in situ, resembling that of the mature T cell. The immunological synapse is dependent on two key signaling pathways known to be critical for the transition beyond the β-selection checkpoint, Notch and CXCR4 signaling. In vitro and in situ analyses indicate that the immunological synapse promotes passage through the β-selection checkpoint. Collectively, these data indicate that developing T cells regulate pre-TCR signaling through the formation of an immunological synapse. This signaling platform integrates cues from Notch, CXCR4, and MHC on the thymic stromal cell to allow transition beyond the β-selection checkpoint.

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