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J Immunol. 1986 May 15;136(10):3521-8.

Phenotypic analysis of thymocytes that express homing receptors for peripheral lymph nodes.


Thymocytes that express high levels of homing receptors for peripheral lymph nodes can be detected with the monoclonal antibody MEL-14. We have shown that in adult mice these rare MEL-14hi thymocytes a) are cortical in location and typically constitute 1 to 3% of the total thymocyte population, b) may be a major source of thymus emigrants, and c) contain a high frequency of precursors of alloreactive cytotoxic T lymphocytes. In this study we have analyzed the phenotype of the MEL-14hi thymocyte subset. Most normal adult MEL-14hi thymocytes are midsize and express the mature phenotype typical of thymus emigrants, medullary thymocytes, and peripheral T cells: they are predominantly PNAlo, H-2K+, Thy-1+, Ly-1hi, and either Lyt-2-/L3T4+ or Lyt-2+/L3T4-. These findings argue strongly for the presence of rare MEL-14hi immunocompetent cortical thymocytes that, aside from their homing receptor expression, are phenotypically indistinguishable from medullary thymocytes. However, a minority (20 to 30%) of MEL-14hi thymocytes are large and phenotypically nonmature: they express intermediate to high levels of PNA binding sites, and are H-2K- to H-2Klo, Thy-1hi, Ly-1+, and either Lyt-2+/L3T4+ or Lyt-2-/L3T4-. Through a technique that selectively labels outer cortical cells, phenotypically nonmature MEL-14hi thymocytes have been shown to be concentrated in the subcapsular blast region of the outer cortex. Although we have no direct evidence of a precursor-product relationship, we consider it likely that the phenotypically nonmature outer cortical MEL-14hi lymphoblasts give rise to phenotypically mature MEL-14hi cells located deeper in the cortex. These results are consistent with our previous proposal that MEL-14hi thymocytes are a major source of thymus emigrants, and indicate that expression of high levels of MEL-14-defined homing receptors may be closely linked to the intrathymic selection process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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