Thymic export in aged sheep: a continuous role for the thymus throughout pre- and postnatal life
AuthorCunningham, CP; Kimpton, WG; Holder, JE; Cahill, RNP
Source TitleEUROPEAN JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY
PublisherWILEY-V C H VERLAG GMBH
University of Melbourne Author/sKimpton, Wayne; CAHILL, ROSS; CUNNINGHAM, CRAIG PATRICK; HOLDER, JOANNE ELIZABETH
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsCunningham, CP; Kimpton, WG; Holder, JE; Cahill, RNP, Thymic export in aged sheep: a continuous role for the thymus throughout pre- and postnatal life, EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY, 2001, 31 (3), pp. 802 - 811
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C1 - Journal Articles Refereed
A diverse repertoire among peripheral T cells is established in early life by thymic export when the naive T cell pool is first formed. In contrast, during adult life the thymus has been thought to play only a minor role in T cell homeostasis. As individuals age there is an increasing proportion of peripheral T cells bearing a memory phenotype, as well as a corresponding decrease in the number of naive T cells. The change in the composition of the peripheral T cell pool with age is thought to occur as a result of reduced or completely curtailed thymic export following thymic involution at puberty together with the antigen-driven expansion of naive T cells in the periphery. We examined thymic export throughout life in fetal, neonatal and aged sheep. We found that the thymus in adult animals showed an efficiency of production and export on a per gram basis equivalent to that observed for much younger animals, and continued to export substantial numbers of T cells long after puberty. The data demonstrate that naive T cells constantly enter the peripheral T cell pool at the same rate throughout fetal, neonatal and adult life, and that one in every 50 T cells in the peripheral lymphoid tissues of aged sheep had emigrated from the thymus in the previous 24 h. The data suggest that restoration by the thymus of a normal peripheral T cell repertoire in chronic T cell-depleting conditions should be possible in adult patients, provided the thymus is not damaged by disease or therapy.
KeywordsImmunology ; Biological Sciences
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