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Eur J Immunol. 1992 Jun;22(6):1587-94.

Thymic hyperplasia in transgenic mice caused by immortal epithelial cells expressing c-kit ligand.

Author information

1
Department of Biotechnology, Ciba-Geigy Ltd., Freiburg.

Abstract

To dissect mechanisms that co-ordinate specific events in thymopoiesis we have characterized alterations in thymic structure and function caused by expression of a transgene. This gene encodes SV40Tag and is specifically expressed in a subset of thymic epithelial (TE) cells around birth. As a result the number of immortal TE cells increases, thymic mass increases (up to 3 g), and thymopoiesis is expanded. The latter is reflected by a approximately 100-fold increase of the major thymocyte subsets and increased peripheral T cell counts. Grossly hyperplastic thymi retain many but not all morphological features of a normal thymus. Also in grafts, SV40Tag+ TE cells steer expansion (up to 8 g) and organize a tissue with mainly cortex-like features that includes mainly SV40Tag+ TE cells, thymocytes, and macrophages. To investigate expression of specialized gene functions in the immortal TE cells, a cell line was derived. The Epi-A1 cell line expresses the genes for major histocompatibility complex class I and II, Thy-1, interleukin (IL)-6, IL-7, macrophage-colony-stimulating factor, and transforming growth factor-beta 3. Most importantly, Epi-A1 cells also express the IL-4 receptor and the c-kit ligand (KL), a factor that, in concert with commitment factors, channels progenitors into hemopoietic lineages. The expression of low constitutive levels of KL mRNA does not require IL-4, but KL mRNA levels are increased dramatically in response to IL-4. Since constitutive expression of KL mRNA in vivo is restricted to a small subset of TE cells in the thymus, our findings reveal a novel specific interaction between thymocytes and a specialized subset of TE cells.

PMID:
1376265
DOI:
10.1002/eji.1830220636
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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