Thymic epithelium tolerizes for histocompatibility antigens

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Science  23 Mar 1990:
Vol. 247, Issue 4949, pp. 1471-1474
DOI: 10.1126/science.2321009


The role of thymic epithelium in the establishment of tissue tolerance was analyzed with a murine chimeric system. All T cells differentiated from birth onward in a thymus comprising allogeneic epithelium and syngeneic hematopoietic cells. Embryonic thymic rudiments that contained no hematopoietic cells from C3H (H-2k) donors were grafted to newborn athymic (nude) BALB/c (H-2d) mice. Chimeras that had normal T cell numbers and function rejected third-party skin grafts, but permanently accepted grafts syngeneic to the thymic epithelium. In vitro functional assays did not always correlate with the state of tolerance in vivo. Thus, pure thymic epithelium induces tolerance to histocompatibility antigens.

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