Analysis of thymic stromal cell subpopulations grown in vitro on extracellular matrix in defined medium. I. Growth conditions and morphology of murine thymic epithelial and mesenchymal cells

I. Eshel, N. Savion, J. Shoham*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We report here the successful selective cultivation of murine thymic mesenchymal reticular cells (MTMC) and murine thymic epithelial cells (MTEC) grown on extracellular matrix in the presence of defined medium. The selective growth of these two cell types was based on 1) conditions of tissue disruption and 2) differential growth requirements. Both cell types were dependent on transferrin, high density lipoproteins, insulin, hydrocortisone, and epidermal growth factor, whereas MTMC was dependent also on selenium and 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine. The elimination of single factors or extracellular matrix resulted in specific and different changes in the growth pattern of each cell subpopulation. Cells of both types exhibited the ultrastructural features of high metabolic activity. The epithelial nature of MTEC cultures was defined by bundles of tonofilaments and desmosomes and by positive staining to keratins and negative to vimentin. In addition MTEC were positively stained with mAb to thymic medullary epithelial cells and by Ulex europeus agglutinin, and were able to form Hassall's corpuscles, suggesting their medullary origin. MTEC were also H-2 and Ia positive. In contrast MTMC were positive for vimentin and periodic acid-Schiff, low positive for H-2, and negative for keratin and Ia. Both cells did not contain nonspecific esterase, nor did they phagocytize latex beads. With the use of all these criteria we classified MTEC as epithelial cells from the medullary compartment of the thymus and MTMC as reticular cells of mesenchymal origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1554-1562
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Volume144
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

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