This study examined the involvement of c-fos protooncogene in thymocyte development from lymphohemopoietic T cell progenitors, within the thymic microenvironment. We first analyzed the thymocytes developing in vitro in the fetal thymus from the c-fos transgenic mice and found a high proportion of CD4+ single positive (SP) cells. We then seeded either fetal liver or bone marrow (BM) cells from normal donors onto lymphocyte-depleted fetal thymus explants of c-fos transgenic mice. The results showed an increased proportion of mature CD4+ SP and decreased CD4+ CD8+ double positive (DP) cells. A similar pattern of CD4 CD8 thymocyte subsets was observed when either thymus or BM cells from c-fos transgenic mice developed within a normal thymic stroma. The kinetics of thymocyte development in organ culture (from Days 3 to 11) suggested that the SP cells obtained under these conditions may have bypassed the CD4+ CD8+ DP phase. It appears that the altered pattern of thymocyte development manifested in adult c-fos transgenic mice can be induced by the early embryonic thymic stroma, and may also involve cells in the lymphohemopoietic tissues.
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