Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
Developmental Immunology
Volume 6, Issue 1-2, Pages 41-52

K21-Antigen: A Molecule Shared by the Microenvironments of the Human Thymus and Germinal Centers

1Department of Immunology, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, DuCane Road, London W12 ONN, UK
2The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology and Charing Cross Sunley Research Centre, Hammersmith, London W6 8LW, UK

Received 20 October 1996; Accepted 9 May 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 mouse IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) K21 recognizes a 230-kD molecule (K21-Ag) on Hassall's corpuscles in the human thymus. This mAb also stains cultured thymic epithelial cells as well as other epithelial cell lines, revealing a predominant intracellular localization. Further analysis with mAb K21 on other lymphoid tissues showed that it also stains cells within the germinal centers of human tonsils, both lymphoid (B) cells and some with the appearance of follicular dendritic cells. Double immunostaining of tonsil sections shows that K21-Ag is not expressed by T cells, whereas staining with anti-CD22 and -CD23 mAb revealed some doublepositive cells. A subpopulation of the lymphoid cells express the K21-Ag much more strongly. This K21++/CD23++ subpopulation of cells is localized in the apical light zone of germinal centers, suggesting that K21-Ag may be an important marker for the selected centrocytes within germinal centers and may play a role in B-cell selection and/or development of B-cell memory. Flow cytometric analysis showed that K21-Ag is expressed on the surface of a very low percentage of thymocytes, tonsillar lymphocytes, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Analysis of purified/separated tonsillar T and B lymphocytes showed that T cells do not express the K21-Ag; in contrast, B cells express low levels of the K21-Ag, and this together with CD23 is upregulated after mitogenic stimulation. Our data therefore raise the possibility that the K2l- Ag may play a role in B-lymphocyte activation/selection.