A small population (10 to 14%) of adult murine thymocytes expresses the glycolipid asialo GM1 (aGM1). Flow cytometric analysis of the aGM1+ cells present in thymus demonstrates the expression of a mature or medullary phenotype by 50% of the aGM1+ cells. Analysis of cytotoxic T lymphocyte precursor activity, proliferative capacity, and IL 2 production displayed by aGM1+ and aGM1- thymocyte fractions isolated by cell sorting indicates that these functional compartments of the thymus are contained within the aGM1+ subset. The aGM1+ population also contains virtually all mitotically active thymocytes, as measured by incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine. The immature IL 2 receptor-bearing thymoblasts are also included in the aGM1+ population. Immunohistochemical labeling of thymic tissue sections reveals that the majority of aGM1+ cells are located in the medulla. Clusters of aGM1+ cells are found scattered throughout the cortical and subcapsular areas. The aGM1+ population therefore contains the functionally mature thymocytes as well as some immature thymocytes, particularly those that are mitotically active. It is suggested that the aGM1+ subset of thymocytes represents those cells that are mature or actively maturing. This hypothesis is discussed in the context of current concepts of intrathymic T cell differentiation pathways.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.