Cytokeratin expression in human thymus: immunohistochemical mapping

Elias Shezen, Elimelech Okon, Herzl Ben-Hur, Oded Abramsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cytokeratin expression in normal postnatal human thymus was studied immunohistochemically by using monoclonal antibodies against various cytokeratin polypeptides. An attempt was made to characterize cell populations giving rise to the cornified structures of Hassal's corpuscles. Monoclonal antibody KB-37, a marker of squamous epithelium basal cells, was applied to distinguish the earliest cells capable of undergoing squamous differentiation. Parts of the subcapsular epithelium were extensively stained with this reagent. This epithelium, like the basal layer of certain squamous epithelia, exibited a high incidence of cytokeratins 13 and 14, and pronounced expression of cytokeratin 19. Simple epithelium cytokeratins 8, 18, and 19 were present in the cortex. Scattered cells reacted with KB-37 antibody. All stellate epithelial cells in the medulla were positive for cytokeratin 19. Most of the medullar epithelial cells were positive for cytokeratins 13, 14 and 17 of complex epithelium, in contrast to the cortex, where only a few cells were positive for these cytokeratins. A significant proportion of the medullar cells was positive for KB-37 antigen. Cytokeratins 8 and 18 were expressed in single cells and in groups of cells surrounding Hassal's corpuscles. The outermost cells of these corpuscles were positive for cytokeratin 19 and KB-37. In the peripheral parts of Hassal's corpuscles, simple epithelium cytokeratins 7, 8, 18, and cytokeratins 4, 13, 14, and 17, characteristic of stratified nonkeratinizing epithelia, were coexpressed with keratinization-specific cytokeratins 10/11. The inner parts of the swirls were uniformly positive for cytokeratins was reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-231
Number of pages11
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokeratins
  • Hassal's corpuscles
  • Immunohisto-chemistry
  • Man
  • Thymus


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