Bone marrow cells give rise to distinct cell clones within the thymus


The thymus is the major, if not the sole site of maturation of T lymphocytes from their haematopoietic precursors1. During embryonic life (at a few well-defined intervals, at least in birds2) the thymus receives thymus-homing haematopoietic precursors that give rise to antigen-specific functional T lymphocytes3–10. Although the number and thymic location of distinct T-cell lineages destined to form the peripheral T-cell pool are not yet well defined, at least two independent pathways have been proposed. First, thymic sub-capsular lymphoblasts divide and differentiate to give rise to small deep cortical thymic lymphocytes, medullary lymphocytes11,12 and thymus emigrants (I.W., unpublished data) and second, the medulla contains an independent self-renewing population that contains the precursors of the peripheral T-cell pool13. Following irradiation the thymus may be repopulated by injected haematopoietic cells presumably related to the thymus-homing haematopoietic cells of the embryo14,15. Here we have reconstituted irradiated mice with limiting numbers of bone marrow cells from Thy-1 congeneic donors and have found distinct clones of cells within the thymus. The pattern of reconstitution by the precursor cells indicates that two independent thymus lineages exist: cortex plus medulla, and medulla alone.

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Ezine, S., Weissman, I. & Rouse, R. Bone marrow cells give rise to distinct cell clones within the thymus. Nature 309, 629–631 (1984).

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