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Cell Immunol. 1998 Jan 10;183(1):32-41.

Inductive role of fibroblastic cell lines in development of the mouse thymus anlage in organ culture.

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Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Meiji University of Oriental Medicine, Kyoto, Japan.


Previously, we have shown that embryonic day 12 thymus anlage cultured alone cannot develop into the mature organ but degenerates. In the present study, we investigated the cause of this insufficient organogenesis of embryonic day 12 thymus anlage in organ culture. We cocultured embryonic day 12 thymus anlages with various cell lines as pellets formed by centrifugation. In coculture with fibroblastic cell lines, but not with thymic epithelial cell lines, embryonic day 12 thymus anlages developed to support full T cell differentiation, and expressed mature stromal cell markers, Ia and Kb. By pellet culture of thymus anlages and fibroblastic cell lines transfected with a beta-galactosidase expression vector, we analyzed the distribution of added fibroblastic cells in pellets. The added fibroblastic cells constituted neither thymic capsule nor septa but disappeared after about 2 weeks in culture. Moreover, immunohistochemical studies indicated that added fibroblastic cells were adjacent to mesenchymal cells of thymus anlage. Our results strongly suggest that added fibroblastic cells support the development of the thymus anlage through interaction with its mesenchymal cells.

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