The potential of hematopoietic precursor cells, recently immigrated into the 13- and 14-day-old embryonic bursa, to migrate to the thymus and to differentiate to functional T cells was investigated. Chromosomally marked cell populations obtained from 13- and 14-day-old embryonic bursas were transferred i.v. to 780 R γ-irradiated chick embryos of equivalent age. When appropriate chimeras were examined at 4 to 12 weeks after cell transfer, donor cells were found to proliferate primarily in the bursa. Significant donor cell influx into the thymus was not detected. In correlation with these findings, Con A- and PHA-responsive T cells in thymus and spleen cell cultures of recipients remained of host origin whereas the number of anti-CIg responsive B cells of donor type increased gradually in the spleens of recipients. An initial lag period preceded the accumulation of functional donor B cells in the spleens of recipients, despite the predominant presence of dividing donor cells in the bursa. This suggests that the transferred bursal cell population required substantially longer to mature and emigrate from the bursa as functional B cells than the host cell population remaining in the irradiated bursas at time of cell transfer. The failure to detect significant influx of donor cells into the thymus and their failure to differentiate to functional T cells suggest that the recently bursa-immigrated hematopoietic stem cells of 13- and 14-day-old embryos may not be pluripotential cells, but rather cells already committed to the B cell line of differentiation.

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