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Cell Tissue Res. 1990 Jul;261(1):115-23.

Thymic nurse cells: morphological study during their isolation from murine thymus.

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Laboratory of Histology, Medical School, University of Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


Thymic nurse cells (TNC), which are multicellular complexes composed of epithelial cells and thymocytes, were obtained from C3H-mice thymuses. They were described by means of light and electron microscopy. The morphology of epithelial cells forming isolated TNC compared to that of small tissue fragments obtained by enzymatic digestion revealed that TNC could be derived from all parts of the thymus: cortex, corticomedullary junction and medulla, the cortex being their principal source. This variety of origin, the presence of several epithelial cells inside a single TNC, the presence of non-lymphoid cells, and the various locations of cleaved desmosomes confirmed that their aspect "in vitro" as round and sealed structures can be considered to be an artifact due to the isolation technique used. Indeed, during this procedure, they are formed by a process of wrapping of the epithelial cytoplasm around the tightly associated thymocytes. All three epithelial cell types: cortical reticular cells, medullary reticular cells, and medullary globular cells can form TNC.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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