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Developmental Immunology
Volume 9 (2002), Issue 2, Pages 63-72

Different Roles of a Rat Cortical Thymic Epithelial Cell Line In Vitro on Thymocytes and Thymocyte Hybridoma Cells: Phagocytosis, Induction of Apoptosis, Nursing and Growth Promoting Activities

Institute of Medical Research, MMA. Crnotravska 17, Belgrade 11002, Serbia

Copyright © 2002 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.


In this work, the interaction between a rat cortical thymic epithelial cell (TEC) line (R-TNC.1) with nursing activity and thymocytes as well as BWRT 8 thymocyte hybridoma (TH) cells has been studied. The R-TNC.1 cell line significantly bound thymocytes and TH. Binding was stronger during the first 30 min of cell incubation and was followed by a progressive deadhesion. Among adherent thymocytes the proportion of apoptotic cells increased with culture time which was a consequence of higher capacity of the line for binding of apoptotic than viable cells and induction of apoptosis in a subset of adherent thymocytes. Emperiopolesis activity of this thymic nurse cell (TNC) line was manifested by engulfment of thymocytes as well as TH cells. A subset of viable intra-TNC thymocytes has been triggered to die by apoptosis, whereas other internalized thymocytes have been stimulated to proliferate, as measured by an increase in the percentage of cells in mitosis and higher incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), in comparison to thymocytes cultivated alone. A significant stimulation of proliferation of engulfed TH cells was also observed. The R-TNC.1 cell line efficiently phagocytosed both apoptotic thymocytes and TH, and the process is followed by intra-TNC destruction of ingested cells. Cumulatively, these results suggest different role of the R-TNC.1 clone: phagocytosis of apoptotic cells; induction of apoptotic cell death in a subset of both bound and internalized thymocytes and stimulation of proliferation of a subset of intra-TNC thymocytes or TH cells.