This article is part of the supplement: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference of the Brazilian Association for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (X-meeting 2009)

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RNA interference-mediated knockdown of CD49e (α5 integrin chain) in human thymic epithelial cells modulates the expression of multiple genes and decreases thymocyte adhesion

Leandra Linhares-Lacerda1, Marcelo Ribeiro-Alves2, Ana Cristina Martins de Almeida Nogueira3, Daniella Areas Mendes-da-Cruz1, Danielle Aparecida Magalhães5, Mireille Dardenne4, Geraldo Aleixo Passos5 and Wilson Savino1*

Author affiliations

1 Laboratory on Thymus Research, Oswaldo Cruz Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 21040-360, Brazil

2 Center for Technology Development in Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 21040-360, Brazil

3 Department of Immunology, National Institute of Quality Control in Health, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, 21040-360, Brazil

4 Hôpital Necker, Université Paris Descartes, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Unité Mixte de Recherche 8147, Paris, 75743, France

5 Molecular Immunogenetics Group, Department of Genetics, University of São Paulo School of Medicine, Ribeirão Preto, SP, 14049-900, Brazil

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Citation and License

BMC Genomics 2010, 11(Suppl 5):S2  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-S5-S2

Published: 22 December 2010



The thymus is a central lymphoid organ, in which bone marrow-derived T cell precursors undergo a complex process of maturation. Developing thymocytes interact with thymic microenvironment in a defined spatial order. A component of thymic microenvironment, the thymic epithelial cells, is crucial for the maturation of T-lymphocytes through cell-cell contact, cell matrix interactions and secretory of cytokines/chemokines. There is evidence that extracellular matrix molecules play a fundamental role in guiding differentiating thymocytes in both cortical and medullary regions of the thymic lobules. The interaction between the integrin α5β1 (CD49e/CD29; VLA-5) and fibronectin is relevant for thymocyte adhesion and migration within the thymic tissue. Our previous results have shown that adhesion of thymocytes to cultured TEC line is enhanced in the presence of fibronectin, and can be blocked with anti-VLA-5 antibody.


Herein, we studied the role of CD49e expressed by the human thymic epithelium. For this purpose we knocked down the CD49e by means of RNA interference. This procedure resulted in the modulation of more than 100 genes, some of them coding for other proteins also involved in adhesion of thymocytes; others related to signaling pathways triggered after integrin activation, or even involved in the control of F-actin stress fiber formation. Functionally, we demonstrated that disruption of VLA-5 in human TEC by CD49e-siRNA-induced gene knockdown decreased the ability of TEC to promote thymocyte adhesion. Such a decrease comprised all CD4/CD8-defined thymocyte subsets.


Conceptually, our findings unravel the complexity of gene regulation, as regards key genes involved in the heterocellular cell adhesion between developing thymocytes and the major component of the thymic microenvironment, an interaction that is a mandatory event for proper intrathymic T cell differentiation.