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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 10, Issue 1, Pages 27-33

Characterization of Vascular Adhesion Molecules that may Facilitate Progenitor Homing in the Post-natal Mouse Thymus

1Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Box 341, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA
2Medicity Research Laboratory, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
3Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University, New York, NY 10021, USA

Copyright © 2003 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.


T cell progenitors derive from the bone marrow but must migrate via bloodstream to the thymus in order to differentiate. The mechanism by which the thymus recruits progenitors from the blood is unknown. It is known, however, that there are receptive and refractory periods for progenitor recruitment and that when cells are imported, they enter the thymus through post-capillary venules. Therefore, recruitment is an active process temporally and spatially regulated. In order to characterize the mechanism of recruitment, we evaluated vascular signals known to regulate leukocyte extravasation, with respect to their intrathymic location and temporal fluctuations. We find that CD34, MECA79, VCAM-1, ICAM-1 and VAP-1 are all expressed in thymic blood vessels. MECA79 and VAP-1 appear to be specific for post-capillary venules, while ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 are also found on intrathymic stromal cells. MAdCAM is also expressed in the thymus, but is not associated with vascular tissues. Only MECA79 is upregulated during recruitment peaks, suggesting a role for this molecule in the periodicity of recruitment. Together, these studies reveal potential roles for l-selectin ligands, VCAM-1, ICAM-1 and VAP-1 in progenitor recruitment to the thymus, and implicate the presence of other periodic signals, such as chemokines and cytokines, that cooperate to execute this essential function.