To investigate the turnover of thymic accessory cells, we performed vascular thymus transplantation in RT7 congenic rats. mAb specific for one of the two allelic variants of the RT7 molecule, as well as mAb specific for either medullary interdigitating cells or a subset of cortical macrophages (M phi), were used on cryostat sections and cell suspensions prepared from grafted thymuses to monitor the turnover of these two cell types. In contrast to the complete turnover of interdigitating cells within 3 wk after transplantation, ED2-labeled cortical M phi showed a very slow turnover. Seventy-six days after transplantation, more than 30% of these M phi were found to be still of donor origin. The different turnover rates of these thymic accessory cells could reflect their function in T cell development.

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