We studied the development of thymus-dependent immunity in congenitally athymic nude rats after implantation of cultured thymic fragments (CTF), particularly the development of in vitro alloreactivity in allogeneic combinations. CTF of DA (RT1a), PVG (RT1c), and RP (RT1p(u,1] origin were implanted in nude rats of WAG (RT1u) origin. In analysis 14 to 18 wk later, all recipients exhibited thymus-dependent immunocompetence assessed by (immuno)-histology of lymphoid organs and responsiveness to in vitro concanavalin A stimulation and in vivo ovalbumin immunization. Control nude animals were unresponsive. Also, in vitro alloreactivity was observed, measured by mixed lymphocyte reaction and cell-mediated lympholysis. The alloresponse to the allogeneic CTF donor haplotype was as to a third party, but that to the recipient was negative. The CTF before implantation were devoid of lymphoid elements and revealed epithelial-like cells as the major component. Cells in CTF showed expression of RT1 class I and class II antigens. CTF at autopsy had the architecture of a normal thymus. In immunohistochemistry using haplotype-specific antibodies, lymphocytes showed RT1u class I expression as in the normal WAG thymus. In the cortex-like area of CTF, stromal cells revealed class I and class II haplotype expression of the donor thymus, but in the medulla-like area, class II haplotype expression was that of the recipient WAG rat. These data indicate that after implantation in nude rats, CTF become populated not only with lymphoid elements, but also with stromal components from the recipient. In induction of thymus-dependent immunity, these acceptor-derived stromal (dendritic) cells may be involved in generation of allospecificity; class I and class II haplotype expression by the donor cortex (epithelial) compartment is ignored in this process.

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