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Developmental Immunology
Volume 3, Issue 2, Pages 123-135

Is There an Interspecific Diversity of the Thymic Microenvironment?

Department of Immunology, Institute Oswaldo Cruz-FIOCRUZ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Received 23 July 1992; Accepted 18 September 1992

Copyright © 1993 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.


Thymic epithelial cells (TEC) heterogeneity suggests the existence of functional subsets. Anti-cytokeratin (Anti-CK) monoclonal antibodies (MAb), markers of epithelial differentiation, have been used to detect TEC subsets in rodents and humans. These MAb revealed a different topography of CK-defined TEC subsets in mice and humans, leading us to carry out a comparative study of mammalian thymuses. Our study showed that the distribution pattern of cytokeratins in the thymic epithelium is complex and unique, with coexpression of CK typical of simple and stratified epithelia. Moreover, we demonstrated an interspecific diversity of CK expression within the thymic lobules. Interestingly, such diversity was not a general phenomenon for the expression of any thymic microenvironmental proteins, because the location of extracellular matrix components was essentially similar in the mammalian species studied.