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Developmental Immunology
Volume 4 (1994), Issue 1, Pages 55-64

Differential Expression Of Adhesion Molecules Within The Human Thymus

Department of Immunology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Du Cane Road, London W12 ONN, United Kingdom

Received 12 November 1993; Accepted 26 January 1994

Copyright © 1994 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.


Development of a diverse, MHC-restricted yet self-tolerant T-cell repertoire occurs within the thymus, and requires contact between developing T cells and their stromal microenvironment. Such interactions are likely to depend on the combinatorial effect of specific adhesion molecules. As a preliminary step to determining their role in T-cell development, we have studied the distribution of LFA-1/ICAM-1, CD2/LFA-3, VLA-4/VCAM-1, and HECA 452-antigen/E-Selectin ligand pairs on frozen sections of human thymus. Using two color-immunohistochemistry, and a variety of cell-lineage markers that reveal the nature of the cells on which these adhesion molecules are located, we find a differential distribution of adhesion molecules, with some being shared by both endothelial and epithelial cells. We also identify the VCAM-1-positive subpopulation as cortical macrophages. The relevance of these findings to thymopoiesis is discussed.