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Dev Immunol. 1998;5(4):287-302.

Thymic stromal-cell abnormalities and dysregulated T-cell development in IL-2-deficient mice.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


The role that interleukin-2 (IL-2) plays in T-cell development is not known. To address this issue, we have investigated the nature of the abnormal thymic development and autoimmune disorders that occurs in IL-2-deficient (IL-2-/-) mice. After 4 to 5 weeks of birth, IL-2-/- mice progressively develop a thymic disorder resulting in the disruption of thymocyte maturation. This disorder is characterized by a dramatic reduction in cellularity, the selective loss of immature CD4-8- (double negative; DN) and CD4+8+ (double positive; DP) thymocytes and defects in the thymic stromal-cell compartment. Immunohistochemical staining of sections of thymuses from specific pathogen-free and germ-free IL-2-/- mice of various ages showed a progressive loss of cortical epithelial cells, MHC class II-expressing cells, monocytes, and macrophages. Reduced numbers of macrophages were apparent as early as 1 week after birth. Since IL-2-/- thymocyte progenitor populations could mature normally on transfer into a normal thymus, the thymic defect in IL-2-/- mice appears to be due to abnormalities among thymic stromal cells. These results underscore the role of IL-2 in maintaining functional microenvironments that are necessary to support thymocyte growth, development, and selection.

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