The human thymic microenvironment: thymic epithelium contains specific keratins associated with early and late stages of epidermal keratinocyte maturation.
Normal T-cell development is dependent on interactions with the thymic microenvironment; thymic epithelial cells are thought to play a key role in the induction of thymocyte maturation, both through direct contact and, indirectly, via thymic hormone secretion. It has been postulated that thymic epithelial cells progress through an antigenically defined pathway of differentiation similar to that of epidermal keratinocytes. As keratins vary according to epithelial cell type and the stage of epithelial cell maturation, we used a panel of monoclonal antibodies against keratins to study specific types of keratin intermediate filaments within human thymic epithelium. The demonstration in human thymus of keratins previously shown to be associated with distinct stages of epidermal keratinocytic maturation would support the hypothesis that thymic epithelial cells undergo sequential stages of differentiation. Two-dimensional immunoblot analysis of cytoskeletal extracts from human thymus revealed that thymic epithelium contains the following keratins: 1-2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 (molecular masses, 65-67, 58, 56, 54, 52, 56.5, 51, 50, 50', 48, and 46 kilodaltons, respectively). Thus, in thymic epithelium, we found keratins previously observed in epidermal basal cells (5, 14, 15), as well as keratins specific for terminally differentiated keratinocytes in supra-basal epidermis (1-2, 10). Indirect immunofluorescence (IF) performed on fetal and postnatal human thymus demonstrated that keratin epitopes recognized by antibodies AE-3, 35 beta H11, and RTE-23 are present on epithelial cells of the subcapsular cortex, the cortex, the medulla, and Hassall's bodies. In contrast, antibodies AE-1 and RTE-22 reacted primarily with neuroendocrine thymic epithelium (subcapsular cortex, medulla, Hassall's bodies). The epithelial reactivity of antibody AE-2 was limited to epithelial cells in Hassall's bodies and did not appear until 16 weeks of fetal gestation i.e., when Hassall's bodies first formed. Two-dimensional gel analysis of thymic keratins demonstrated that antibody AE-2 identified only the keratins with molecular masses of 56.6 and 65-67 kilodaltons (10 and 1-2 respectively) in thymus. These data, together with the selective reactivity of AE-2 with Hassall's bodies in fluorescence assays, demonstrate the localization in Hassall's bodies of the high-molecular-weight keratins associated with the late stages of epidermal cell maturation. In summary, we demonstrated that human thymic epithelium contains specific keratins found in multiple epithelial types as well as keratins associated with both early and late stages of epidermal cell differentiation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
Laster, AJ; Itoh, T; Palker, TJ; Haynes, BF
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