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Dev Comp Immunol. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1-2):85-90. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2012.01.002. Epub 2012 Jan 13.

Evolution of thymus organogenesis.

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Key Laboratory of Medical Immunology, Ministry of Health, Department of Immunology, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, 38 Xue Yuan Road, Beijing 100191, PR China.


The thymus is the primary organ for functional T lymphocyte development in jawed vertebrates. A new study in the jawless fish, lampreys, indicates the existence of a primitive thymus in these surviving representatives of the most ancient vertebrates, providing strong evidence of co-evolution of T cells and thymus. This review summarizes the wealth of data that have been generated towards understanding the evolution of the thymus in the vertebrates. Progress in identifying genetic networks and cellular mechanisms that control thymus organogenesis in mammals and their evolution in lower species may inspire the development of new strategies for medical interventions targeting faulty thymus functions.

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