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Thymus metabolises progesterone—possible enzymatic marker for T lymphocytes


FEMALES of the athymic mutant strain of nude mice show severe deficiencies in reproductive function. The ovaries and the uterus are abnormally small1, puberty is delayed2, oestrous cycles are abnormal and mature females are usually sterile1,3. These abnormalities can be prevented by grafting thymic tissue at birth2,3. Similar abnormalities result from neonatal thymectomy of normal female mice, and can be corrected by thymus re-grafting up to 7 d age2,4. These observations suggest an involvement of the thymus in gonadal development and function. Conversely, certain sex hormones are known to cause atrophy of the thymus5. Hitherto, however, there has been no evidence implicating the thymus of the infantile mouse in sex hormone metabolism. We report here the presence of 20α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (20α-SDH) activity in the mouse thymus, an enzyme engaged in progesterone metabolism.

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WEINSTEIN, Y., LINDNER, H. & ECKSTEIN, B. Thymus metabolises progesterone—possible enzymatic marker for T lymphocytes. Nature 266, 632–633 (1977).

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