T cell differentiation is governed by interactions with thymic epithelial cells (TECs) and defects in this process undermine immune function and tolerance. To uncover new strategies to restore thymic function and adaptive immunity in immunodeficiency, we sought to determine the molecular mechanisms that control life and death decisions in TEC. We created a mouse model which specifically deleted the pro-survival gene Mcl1 in TEC. We found that while BCL-2 and BCL-XL were dispensable for TEC homeostasis, MCL-1 deficiency impacted on TEC as early as E15.5, resulting in early thymic atrophy and T cell lymphopenia, with near complete loss of thymic tissue by 2 months of age. MCL-1 was not necessary for TEC differentiation but was continually required for the survival of medullary TEC, including autoimmune regulator (AIRE) expressing TECs and the maintenance of overall thymic architecture. To understand the molecular mechanisms in more detail, RNA-seq profiling was undertaken of cortical and medullary thymic epithelial cells (cTECs and mTECs) from wildtype and knockout mice. Overall design: The number of biological replicates was n=4 for WT cTECs, n=2 for WT mTECs, n=1 for KO cTECs and n=1 for KO mTECs.