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Developmental Immunology
Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 151-160

Interferon Gamma Alters the Phenotype of Rat Thymic Epithelial Cells in Culture and Increases Interleukin-6 Production

Institute of Medical Research, Military Medical Academy, Belgrade, Serbia

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.


Rat thymic epithelial cells (TEC) in long-term culture were characterized by anticytokeratin monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and electron microscopy. Phenotypic analysis performed by a large panel of mAbs showed that the highest percentage of these cells was of the subcapsular/medullary type. Recombinant rat interferon (IFN)-gamma up-regulated class-I and class-II MHC expression by TEC in culture as confirmed by immunohistochemistry and flow cytometry, but did not significantly alter other cell markers. TEC supernatants of IFN-gamma- treated cultures showed higher interleukin-6 (IL-6) activity, compared to the control, as determined by proliferation of the IL-6-sensitive B9-cell line. Increased IL-6 activity was probably not a consequence of increased TEC number in IFN-gammatreated cultures because IFN did not significantly stimulate TEC proliferation in vitro. In contrast, IL-6 significantly stimulated TEC proliferation, indicating that this cytokine is not only a regulatory molecule for T-cell proliferation, but could also be an autocrine growth factor for thymic epithelium.