Neuromodulatory loop mediated by nerve growth factor and interleukin 6 in thymic stromal cell cultures

Isabella Screpanti, Daniela Meco, Susanna Scarpa, Stefania Morrone, Luigi Frati, Alberto Gulino, Andrea Modesti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Neural crest cell derivatives have been suggested to be involved in thymus development. We established nonlymphoid thymic stromal cell cultures capable of supporting T-cell differentiation. In these nonlymphoid cell cultures, we identified cells with phenotypic and biochemical markers specific for neuronal cells. Neurofilament mRNA and 68- and 160-kDa neurofilament proteins, as well as 74-kDa synapsin I isoform, were expressed in many of the cultured cells. For example, neurofilament immunoreactivity was detected in 20-30% of the cells. To see whether thymic neuronal-like cells were involved in a neural differentiation pathway, we investigated the effect of nerve growth factor (NGF) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), two known neurotrophic factors. The expression of the above-described neural markers was enhanced by NGF and thymic which we report to be produced in an autocrine way by thymic stromal cell cultures. Finally, we found that IL-6 gene expression in these cell cultures was enhanced by NGF. Evidence is thus offered of a neuromodulatory loop within the thymic stromal cell population supported by local production of NGF and IL-6 and involving neural cell elements. Interestingly, IL-6, which is known to be implicated in thymocyte dfferentiation, also displays a neuromodulatory activity on thymic stromal cells, suggesting a multivalent role for this cytokine within the thymus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3209-3212
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1992



  • Neurofilaments
  • Neurotrophic factors
  • Synapsin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

Cite this