The binding of chicken thyroglobulin-coated chicken red blood cells by splenic, thymic, and bursal lymphoid cells was analysed in Obese strain (OS) chickens with spontaneous autoimmune thyroiditis and normal white Leghorn controls aged 1 week to 2.5 yr. Chicken erythrocytes coated with pneumococcal polysaccharide SIII served as controls. The specificity of thyroglobulin-rosette-forming cells was verified by inhibition experiments. OS chickens showed significantly higher counts of thyroglobulin-rosette-forming cells in the spleen and thymus as compared to normal controls while no such difference was found for SIII-rosette-forming cells. The values obtained with bursal lymphoid cells were in the same range in both OS and normal white Leghorn birds. The appearance of thyroglobulin-rosette-forming cells and their peak values clearly preceded the maximum frequency and severity of thyroditis and the peak of the thyroglobulin antibody curve. It is concluded that the presence of thyroglobulin rosette-forming cells is a prerequisite for the future development of spontaneous autoimmune thyroiditis in the OS. Inhibition studies with specific turkey anti-chicken bursa and thymus cell sera revealed the B cell nature of active thyroglobulin-rosette-forming cells and suggested that passive rosette-forming cells were of T cell origin.

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