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Developmental Immunology
Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 287-302

Thymic Stromal-Cell Abnormalities and Dysregulated T-Cell Development in IL-2-Deficient Mice

1Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 303A Johnson Pavilion, Philadelphia PA 19104, USA
2Department of Microbiology and Immunology Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of California, 513 Parnasus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

Received 12 June 1997; Accepted 22 August 1997

Copyright © 1998 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.


The role that interleukin-2 (IL-2) plays in T-cell development is not known. To address this issue, we have investigated the nature of the abnormal thymic development and autoimmune disorders that occurs in IL-2-deficient (IL-2–/–) mice. After 4 to 5 weeks of birth, IL-2–/– mice progressively develop a thymic disorder resulting in the disruption of thymocyte maturation. This disorder is characterized by a dramatic reduction in cellularity, the selective loss of immature CD4-8- (double negative; DN) and CD4+8+ (double positive; DP) thymocytes and defects in the thymic stromal-cell compartment. Immunohistochemical staining of sections of thymuses from specific pathogen-free and germ-free IL-2–/– mice of various ages showed a progressive ,loss of cortical epithelial cells, MHC class II-expressing cells, monocytes, and macrophages. Reduced numbers of macrophages were apparent as early as week after birth. Since IL-2–/– thymocyte progenitor populations could mature normally on transfer into a normal thymus, the thymic defect in IL-2–/– mice appears to be due to abnormalities among thymic stromal cells. These results underscore the role of IL-2 in maintaining functional microenvironments that are necessary to support thymocyte growth, development, and selection.