Glucocorticoids (GCs) are widely known to be potent modulators of the immune system. The role of GCs in thymopoiesis as well as the integration of the thymus with the neuroendocrine system is, however, poorly understood. In the present work, we have studied, in transgenic mice with an impaired GC function, the alterations which occur in both T-cell differentiation and thymic stroma maturation, throughout ontogeny as well as in adult condition, analyzing their possible rebounding on the status of adult splenic T lymphocyte populations. These transgenic mice have been described to present a significant decrease (60-70%) of thymic and splenic GC receptor binding capacity but maintain normal their basal plasma ACTH and corticosterone levels. The animals showed a partial blockade of T-cell differentiation and decreased percentages of apoptotic cells during fetal development but not in adult life, when thymic cellularity was significantly increased although thymocyte apoptosis response was not affected. In contrast, thymic stroma was profoundly altered from early fetal stages and large epithelium-free areas appeared in adult thymus. On the other hand, our study revealed a reduction of the splenic TcRαβ population accompanied by an increase in the CD4/CD8 ratio. The analysis of different adhesion molecules as well as activation markers demonstrated that most of them (CD5, CD11a, CD11b, CD69 and MHC Class II) were normally expressed in transgenic lymphocytes, whereas CD44 and CD62L expression was altered indicating the existence of an increased proportion of primed T-cells in these animals. In view of the mutual interdependence of thymic stroma and thymocyte maturation, the partial blockade of T-cell differentiation during ontogeny and the profound alterations of the stromal cell compartment in transgenic mice with impaired GR function suggest a key role for GCs in coordinating the physiological dialogue between the developing thymocytes and their microenvironment. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.
- Glucocorticoid receptor antisense RNA
- Stromal cells
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Immunology and Allergy