Establishment of a mouse thymic epithelial cell line, IT-76MHC and a brief review on cultured thymic epithelial cells.

Tsunetoshi Itoh, M. Nakamura, H. Yagi, H. Soga, H. Doi, S. Koja, M. Nanno, R. Suzuki, S. Satomi, S. Kasahara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Interactions between thymocytes and thymic stromal cells are essential for thymocyte differentiation, but little evidence has been presented to directly show in vivo functions or interactions of the stromal cells. Among the stromal cells, the thymic epithelial cell has been considered to have profound effect on thymocyte differentiation and maturation. The calcium-depleted medium, originally developed for the culture of mouse epidermal cells, was applied for the culture of the mouse thymic epithelial cells, and successfully, an epithelial cell line, IT-76MHC was obtained from the mouse thymus. IT-76MHC cells were identified as distinct mouse thymic epithelial cells by 1/ mosaic-like arrangement, 2/ presence of well-developed desmosome and 3/ tonofilaments, 4/ positivity for cytokeratin, and 5/ induced expression of MHC class I and II by IFN-gamma treatment. IGF-1, IGF-2, oxytocin and vasopressin were also detected immunohistochemically in IT-76MHC cells. Furthermore, the IT-76MHC thymic epithelial cells, when injected intrathymically in the allogeneic mouse, prolonged the survival of skin graft from the same donor strain that IT-76MHC cells were derived. These results demonstrate that the thymic epithelial cell line IT-76MHC produces modest thymocyte survival factors as well as a growth suppressor, and that IT-76MHC cells have the ability to induce transplantation tolerance probably through their expression of MHC class I and II molecules. Taken altogether, the IT-76MHC thymic epithelial cells have been proved to be useful tools to better understand the in vivo functions of thymic epithelial cells, and to gain a deep insight into their involvement in the critical selection process of thymocytes which still remains obscure. Finally and additionally, literatures so far reported on thymic epithelial cells in culture, especially lines and clones, are reviewed and their identity as well as their functions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalCellular and molecular biology (Noisy-le-Grand, France)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Feb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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