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J Immunol. 1989 Jan 1;142(1):41-7.

Precursor immigration and thymocyte succession during larval development and metamorphosis in Xenopus.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha 68105.


The developing thymus in Xenopus was examined at four different levels: 1) precursor immigration of cytogenetically distinct embryonic stem cells; 2) waves of colonization during tadpole life and metamorphosis; 3) inter-thymic exchange of cells between separate lobes; and 4) development of cortical and medullary thymocytes. Based on the flow cytometric analysis of cytogenetically distinct thymocytes, there were at least two periods of stem cell immigration into the thymus, one during early larval life and the second before or during metamorphosis. Within the thymus, cohorts of cells derived from the first wave of immigration expanded at different times. The initial expansion occurred before 35 days of development. Cells involved in the second period of expansion were also derived from the initial immigrants, expanded after 35 days, and resulted in a turnover of thymocytes during the larval period. Precursor cells entering the thymus during metamorphosis expanded and resulted in an additional replacement of thymocytes. Cortical and medullary thymocytes were isolated from animals that received embryonic stem cell grafts. No differences in the presence or absence, or in the percentages, of donor thymocytes in these different fractions were observed. When limiting numbers of stem cells were transplanted, several cases of asymmetrical thymic lobe colonization were observed. These data suggested that an inter-thymic exchange of cells did not occur during larval life.

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