Cultivation, proliferation and characterization of thymic macrophages

R. Gallily, Naphtali Savion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Successful long-term culture of murine thymic macrophages was achieved by plating adherent thymic cells, in the presence of L cell-conditioned medium, on dishes coated with an extracellular matrix. Adherent thymic cells in normal conditions of in-vitro culture do not proliferate. Those maintained on plastic tissue-culture dishes, and exposed to L cell-conditioned medium, proliferate slowly to a limited degree and form very small colonies. In contrast, when cultured in dishes coated with an extracellular matrix formed by corneal endothelial cells, in the presence of L cell-conditioned medium, adherent thymic cells proliferate rapidly and after 12-21 days in culture form large colonies (about 3-5 mm in diameter). The proliferating cells were identified to be mononuclear phagocytes by their morphological appearance, their ability to ingest both bacteria and antibody-coated erythrocytes and by their non-specific esterase activity. These cells were also shown to exhibit cell surface antigens that are characteristic of differentiated macrophages, e.g. Fc receptors and the specific macrophage cell surface marker F4/80. A high percentage of these cultured cells were found to bear I-A antigens. The adherent thymic mononuclear phagocytes could be trypsinized and passaged while maintaining both their ability to proliferate and their specific macrophage characteristics for a period of 70 days. Thus, monocyte-macrophage stem cells are present in the thymus, and under appropriate in-vitro conditions, can be made to proliferate and mature to I-A-bearing macrophages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-148
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes


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