The possibility that mature lymphocytes play a role in the regulation of human T cell development was studied in the experimental model of fetal thymus organ cultures (FTOC), by reconstituting lymphocyte-depleted murine fetal thymus (FT) lobe with cells isolated from human umbilical cord blood (CB). Cultures were incubated with human cytokines (IL-7, FLT-3 ligand and Steel Factor), or remained untreated. When CD4+, or CD8+ CB cells, were co- cultured with FT explants, they expanded and maintained their original phenotypic markers, with no significant effect of the cytokines. Cultures of human hematopoietic stem cells (CD34+) gave rise to CD4+CD8- cells, which were mainly CD3-, with no indication of further intermediate developmental stages. However, a limited number of CD4+CD8+ (double positive [DP]) cells were detected when the CD34+ cells were co-cultured with CD4+ cells from the same CB samples. In contrast, FT with unseparated CB cells resulted in the different CD4/CD8 subsets, and their numbers increased in the presence of cytokines. The appearance of DP cells depended on the presence of either CD4+ or CD8+ cells in the cultured CB samples. Hence, DP cells were not detected when the CB was depleted of CD4+ and CD8+ cells ('depCB') before culture, and they appeared when depCB were co-cultured with either CD4+ or CD8+ cells. In contrast, CD4+ cells inhibited the development of CD8+CD3+ cells, and this was most pronounced in the absence of the cytokines. There was no symmetrical down-regulatory effect of CD8+ cells on the development of CD4+CD3+ cells. Addition of IL-15 to the cytokine mixture led to an increased proportion of CD56+ cells in cultures of CD34+ cells. The presence of CD4+, and not CD8+ cells, interfered with this process. Our results thus imply differential effects of CD4+ and CD8+ cells on thymocytopoiesis.
- Cord blood
- Fetal thymus
- Human hematopoietic stem cells
- T-cell development