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J Immunol. 2000 Jul 1;165(1):238-46.

Macrophage-derived chemokine and EBI1-ligand chemokine attract human thymocytes in different stage of development and are produced by distinct subsets of medullary epithelial cells: possible implications for negative selection.

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Department of Internal Medicine Clinical Immunology, Allergy and Respiratory Disease Unit, University of Florence, Italy.


The chemoattractant activity of macrophage-derived chemokine (MDC), EBI1-ligand chemokine (ELC), and secondary lymphoid tissue chemokine (SLC) on human thymocytes was analyzed. Both ELC and SLC caused the accumulation of CD4+CD8- or CD4-CD8+ CD45RA+ thymocytes showing high CD3 expression. By contrast, a remarkable proportion of MDC-responsive thymocytes were CD4+CD8+ cells exhibiting reduced levels of CD8 or CD4+CD8- cells showing CD3 and CD45R0, but not CD45RA. MDC-responsive thymocyte suspensions were enriched in cells expressing the MDC receptor, CCR4, selectively localized to the medulla, and in CD30+ cells, whereas ELC-responsive thymocytes never expressed CD30. Reactivity to both MDC and ELC was localized to cells of the medullary areas, but never in the cortex. Double immunostaining showed no reactivity for either MDC or ELC by T cells, macrophages, or mature dendritic cells, whereas many medullary epithelial cells were reactive to MDC or ELC. However, MDC reactivity was consistently localized to the outer wall of Hassal's corpuscles, whereas ELC reactivity was often found in cells surrounding medullary vessels, but not in Hassal's corpuscles. Moreover, while most MDC-producing cells also stained positive for CD30L, this molecule was never found on ELC-producing cells. We suggest therefore that CD30L-expressing MDC-producing medullary epithelial cells attract CCR4-expressing thymocytes, thus favoring the CD30/CD30L interaction, and therefore the apoptosis, of cells that are induced to express CD30 by autoantigen activation. By contrast, ELC production by CD30L-lacking medullary epithelial cells may induce the migration into periphery of mature thymocytes that have survived the process of negative selection.

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