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Eur J Immunol. 1993 Jun;23(6):1201-14.

Phenotypically diverse mouse thymic stromal cell lines which induce proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic cells.

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Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology, Philadelphia, PA 19104.


The heterogeneity of the thymic stroma has made careful characterization of particular thymic stromal cell types difficult. To this end, we have derived a panel of cloned thymic stromal cell lines from simian virus 40 T antigen (SV40-T antigen) transgenic mice. Based on their analysis with monoclonal antibodies that distinguish among subsets of thymic stroma cells, and on the morphology and ultrastructural features of the different clones, we suggest that our panel includes representatives of the thymic subcapsular cortex or thymic nurse cells (427.1), the deep cortex or cortical reticular cells (1308.1) and the medulla including medullary interdigitating (IDC)-like cells (6.1.1) and medullary epithelial cells (6.1.7). A fifth cell type of undesignated but apparent medullary origin (6.1.11) was also isolated. All of the cell lines constitutively express the SV40 T antigen transgene and the class I antigens of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and they can be induced to express MHC class II antigens upon stimulation with recombinant interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). These cell lines elaborate a factor(s) that induces the proliferation of cells from the fetal liver and bone marrow, but not from the neonatal thymus. A factor(s) elaborated by the 1308.1 cell line also induces the proliferation of fetal thymocytes in the absence of mitogens, phorbol esters or calcium ionophore which is augmented with the addition of recombinant interleukin-2 (IL-2). Analysis by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction with primers for some mouse cytokines reveals that each of these cell lines contain granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) transcripts and that 1308.1, 6.1.1 and 6.1.7 produce IL-6 mRNA. Cell lines 1308.1 and 6.1.1 also produce IL-7; 6.1.1 produces IL-1 beta and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha while the 427.1 cell line produces IL-5 and IFN-gamma mRNA. None of the cell lines tested express the IL-2 receptor, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, TNF-beta or macrophage inflammatory proteins mRNA. Conditioned medium (CM) from 1308.1 and 6.1.11 induced differentiation of cells purified from the mouse fetal liver into granulocytes; 1308.1 CM also induced differentiation of the mouse hematopoietic stem cell line 32DCl3(G) suggesting that the CM contains granulocyte (G)-CSF activity. Each cell line produces GM-CSF but the greatest activity is associated with 1308.1 and 6.1.11 CM. The availability of these well-characterized, functional, cloned thymic stromal cells will allow a more detailed analysis of the role of each cell type in both myeloid and T cell development.

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