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J Immunol. 1992 Dec 15;149(12):3851-7.

Role of neuroendocrine hormones in murine T cell development. Growth hormone exerts thymopoietic effects in vivo.

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Office of the Associate Director, National Cancer Institute-Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, MD 21702-1201.


Growth hormone (GH) and other neuroendocrine mediators have been implicated previously in T cell development. We therefore examined thymic development in DW/J dwarf mice. DW/J mice lack acidophilic anterior pituitary cells and consequently are totally deficient in the production of GH, as well as other neuroendocrine hormones. DW/J dwarf mice had greatly hypoplastic thymi that continued to decrease in size as the mice aged. Characterization of the different T cell subpopulations within the thymi of dwarf mice indicated a deficiency in CD4+/CD8+ double-positive thymocytes. This deficiency of progenitor cells became more complete as the mice aged culminating in the total disappearance of this subpopulation in some dwarf mice > 3 mo of age. Analysis of the lymph nodes indicated that a population of double-positive (CD4/CD8) T cells appeared in some mice concurrent with the disappearance of double-positive cells in the thymus suggesting that these thymocytes may have migrated to the periphery. However, peripheral T cells from dwarf mice did exhibit Ag-specific responses indicating that these mice have functional T cells. Treatment of the mice with recombinant human GH, which binds both murine growth hormone receptors and murine prolactin receptors, or ovine GH, which binds murine growth hormone receptors but not murine prolactin receptors, resulted in an increase in thymic size and the reappearance of the CD4+/CD8+ double-positive cells within the thymus. Additionally, after GH treatment, the double-positive cells disappeared from the lymph nodes. The thymi of mice treated with GH failed to attain normal size but did develop a normal distribution of T cell progenitors. Thus, GH exerts significant thymopoietic effects in vivo. Neuroendocrine hormones may be important for normal T cell differentiation to occur within the murine thymus.

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