Our previous study showed that in cutaneous graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) induced by intradermal injection of autoreactive T cells the epidermal structures spontaneously recovered from the destruction became resistant to the subsequent attempts to induce the cutaneous GVHD and that the resistance correlated well with a 30-fold increase in the number of Thy-1+ epidermal cells (Thy-1+EC). We show that the resistance to the cutaneous GVHD was never induced in athymic nude mice and adult thymectomy lethal radiation and bone marrow reconstitution (ATXBM) mice under the same conditions, indicating that the induction of the resistance is dependent on the presence of thymus. A great increase in the number of Thy-1+EC was similarly observed in the epidermis of the athymic nude and ATXBM mice that spontaneously recovered from the cutaneous GVHD and that remained susceptible to the induction of the cutaneous GVHD. However, the results with B10Thy-1.1----B6 radiation chimeras clearly demonstrate that the vast majority of the increased Thy-1+EC found in the "susceptible" epidermis of the ATXBM mice were of donor bone marrow origin and there was no increase in the number of host-derived Thy-1+EC, whereas in the "resistant" epidermis of the XBM mice both Thy-1+EC populations were equally increased. The overall results indicate that the expansion of Thy-1+EC that mature in the thymus is crucial to the induction of the resistance, although the migration of bone marrow-derived Thy-1+EC precursors to the epidermis occurs quite independently of the presence of thymus.

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