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The golden anniversary of the thymus

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 18 November 2011

This article has been updated

Abstract

The immunological function of the thymus was first documented 50 years ago by using neonatally thymectomized mice, while studying its role in virus-induced leukaemia. Since then, an enormous wealth of reports has helped to define the importance of this primary lymphoid organ. In this article, I summarize the key advances that have led to our current knowledge of the functions of the thymus and its T cells in immunity.

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Figure 1: Thymus grafts in neonatally thymectomized mice.
Figure 2: An experiment demonstrating the existence and function of B and T cells.
Figure 3: The state of knowledge at the end of 1968.
Figure 4: Major events in thymus cell differentiation.

Change history

  • 18 November 2011

    In the original version of this article, in the section under the title “Lymphocyte subsets” on page 491, a key reference was unintentionally omitted. At the end of the sentence “T cells that help B cells to produce antibody (T helper (TH) cells) generally bear the CD4 marker (originally known as L3T4), whereas those that serve cytotoxic functions (cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs)) are usually characterized by the presence of CD8 molecules (originally known as LYT2 and LYT3)” the following reference should have been cited: Kisielow, P. et al. Ly antigens as markers for functionally distinct subpopulations of thymus-derived lymphocytes of the mouse.

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful to many of my colleagues, including L. Wu, K. Shortman, T. Basten and, in particular, J. Sprent, for fruitful suggestions.

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Miller, J. The golden anniversary of the thymus. Nat Rev Immunol 11, 489–495 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nri2993

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