Human thymic epithelial cells function as accessory cells for autologous mature thymocyte activation.
Using human thymocytes and autologous thymic epithelial (TE) cells grown in vitro in long-term culture, we have found TE cells can function as accessory cells for mitogen-induced mature thymocyte activation. Tritiated thymidine incorporation, blast formation, and protein synthesis were all induced in accessory cell-depleted thymocytes by autologous TE cells in the presence of suboptimal concentrations of PHA. After 3 days of mitogen stimulation of thymocyte-TE cell cocultures in vitro, thymocyte blasts bound to TE cells and 77 +/- 4% (mean +/- SEM) of TE cells acquired expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II (DR) antigen. TE accessory cell function for thymocyte activation was dependent on the number of TE cells added to thymocyte cultures, was not dependent on TE cell division, but did require TE cell protein synthesis. In thymocyte separation experiments, the predominant cell type responding to PHA in the presence of TE cells was T6- mature (stage III) thymocytes. Thus, human TE cells are capable of providing signals that lead to mature thymocyte activation.
Denning, SM; Tuck, DT; Singer, KH; Haynes, BF
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