Human thymocytes bind to autologous and allogeneic thymic epithelial cells in vitro.
The thymus plays a critical role in the generation of immunocompetent T lymphocytes. In the thymus, lymphocytes are in close contact with epithelial cells, and this contact is necessary for T-cell maturation. Using cultured human thymic epithelial (TE) cells, we have found that human thymocytes bind to human TE cells in vitro. Thymocytes bound to both allogeneic and autologous TE cells and to the epidermoid carcinoma cell line A431 but did not bind to epidermal keratinocytes or to thymic fibroblasts. Thymocyte binding to TE cells was trypsin- and cytochalasin B-sensitive. Indirect immunofluorescence assays showed that both mature (T6-, T3+) and immature (T6+, T3-) thymocytes bound TE cells. In our system, TE-thymocyte binding was not inhibited by antibodies to class I or class II major histocompatibility antigens. In vitro binding of thymocytes to TE cells may represent a correlate of in vivo TE-thymocyte interactions and provides a model system for the study of human intrathymic T-lymphocyte maturation and activation.
Singer, KH; Wolf, LS; Lobach, DF; Denning, SM; Tuck, DT; Robertson, AL; Haynes, BF
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