Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) that develop hypertension and arterial lesions resembling human periarteritis nodosa were found to possess a selective depression of T cell functions with an appearance of natural thymocytotoxic autoantibody (NTA). The relationship between T cell depression and hypertension in these animals was investigated. The immune responsiveness of T cell-depressed SHR was completely recovered by histocompatible thymus grafts and was partially restored by histoincompatible allogeneic or xenogeneic thymus grafts or by injection of thymus extracts. Transplantation of compatible thymus tissues into neonatal SHR produced long-lasting recovery of immune functions. When complete immunologic restoration was achieved, significant suppression of high blood pressure was obtained. The SHR that showed high blood pressure were always accompanied with high NTA titers and arterial lesions. Thymus grafts or thymus extracts significantly decreased the titers of NTA. The development and dissemination of arterial lesions, which may cause increased blood flow resistance, were completely prevented by compatible thymus grafts into neonatal SHR. These results suggest that thymus grafts and thymus extracts may suppress the development of hypertension by preventing or curing the periarteritis nodosa in SHR.

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