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Developmental Immunology
Volume 2 (1992), Issue 2, Pages 123-129

Susceptibility of Thymocytes for Infection by Chicken Anemia Virus is Related to Pre- and Posthatching Development

Central Veterinary Institute, Department of Virology, P. O. Box 365, Lelystad 8200 AJ, The Netherlands

Copyright © 1992 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


To investigate the age-dependent mechanism of susceptibility for chicken anemia virus (CAV) infection, we inoculated embryos and chickens of ages between day 9 of embryonic development and day 28 after hatching with CAV. Chicken embryos inoculated at days 9 and 11 of development showed no CAV-infected cells in the thymus, nor in other lymphoid organs. Many CAV-infected cells were detected in the thymic cortex of all chicken embryos inoculated at days 13 and 16 of development and of all chickens inoculated 1, 3, and 7 days after hatching. All embryos and chickens that contained CAV-infected cells in the thymus also contained CAV-infected cells in the bone marrow, but not in the bursa of Fabricius or the spleen. In chickens inoculated at days 14 and 21, only few CAV-infected cells were detected in the thymus, whereas these cells were not detected in thymi of 28-day-old inoculated chickens. Depletion of the thymic cortex was only detected in chickens inoculated from day 16 of embryonic development till day 21 after hatching. Only hematocrit values of the chickens inoculated 1 and 3 days after hatching were below normal. The rationale for the simultaneous susceptibility of cells of the T-cell lineage and cells of the erythrocyte lineage is discussed. As far as the thymus is concerned, the absence of clinical and microscopical signs of CAV infection in older chickens and the inability of CAV to infect embryos at days 9 and 11 of embryonic development may be caused by a lack of susceptible thymocytes. In view of the three waves of thymic precursor cells that populate the thymus during ontogeny, as described by Le Douarin and colleagues, we hypothesize that CAV only infects thymocytes derived from the second wave of precursor cells.