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Nature. 1984 Jun 14-20;309(5969):629-31.

Bone marrow cells give rise to distinct cell clones within the thymus.


The thymus is the major, if not the sole site of maturation of T lymphocytes from their haematopoietic precursors. During embryonic life (at a few well-defined intervals, at least in birds) the thymus receives thymus-homing haematopoietic precursors that give rise to antigen-specific functional T lymphocytes. Although the number and thymic location of distinct T-cell lineages destined to form the peripheral T-cell pool are not yet well defined, at least two independent pathways have been proposed. First, thymic subcapsular lymphoblasts divide and differentiate to give rise to small deep cortical thymic lymphocytes, medullary lymphocytes and thymus emigrants (I.W., unpublished data) and second, the medulla contains an independent self-renewing population that contains the precursors of the peripheral T-cell pool. Following irradiation the thymus may be repopulated by injected haematopoietic cells presumably related to the thymus-homing haematopoietic cells of the embryo. Here we have reconstituted irradiated mice with limiting numbers of bone marrow cells from Thy-1 congeneic donors and have found distinct clones of cells within the thymus. The pattern of reconstitution by the precursor cells indicates that two independent thymus lineages exist: cortex plus medulla, and medulla alone.

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