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Cell Immunol. 1990 May;127(2):238-46.

Quantitative analysis of bone marrow thymic progenitors in young and aged mice.

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Department of Cell Biology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Our studies on the capacity of bone marrow (BM) to generate T lymphocytes in aging have revealed that under the competitive conditions of thymic reconstitution, cells of aged mice are significantly inferior to those of the young. The present study was designed to further investigate the basis of this age-related change. Two mechanisms were considered: (a) The potential of BM-derived T cell precursors from aged mice to proliferate and differentiate in the thymic microenvironment is impaired. (b) The frequency of T cell precursors is reduced in BM of aged mice, thus affecting their ability to compete efficiently in reconstituting the thymus. These possibilities were studied in vitro by colonizing thymocyte-depleted fetal thymic lobes with BM cells from aged (24-month) and young (3-month) C57BL/6 mice. By determining the cell cycle duration of BM-derived cells which have seeded the thymic lobes, we found that cells originating from aged mice proliferate in the thymus at the same rate as those from young mice. Reconstitution with limiting numbers of BM cells indicated that the frequency of thymic progenitors in the BM is significantly reduced in aged as compared to young mice. We thus conclude that aging is associated with a quantitative reduction in the frequency of thymic progenitors in the BM.

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