Author(s): BarDayan Y, Afek A, BarDayan Y, Goldberg I, Kopolovic J
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Abstract The thymus reaches its maximal size at the age of 1 month in ICR mice and thereafter, the thymic cortex undergoes an exponential decline. This study was designed to compare the proliferation and apoptosis of thymocytes in different parts of the thymus of ICR female mice at the beginning and after the rapid phase of decline of the thymic cortical cellularity. The pattern of proliferation and apoptosis of the thymus was studied in situ in 1-month-old ICR female mice (10 mice) compared to mice at 7 months of age (10 mice). Staining for argyrophylic nucleolar organizer region by histochemistry was used to determine the proportion of type 2 thymocytes, which are considered as cells at S phase of the cell cycle. The mean number of type 2 cells in four random samples of 50 cells in each part of the thymus was defined as the proliferation index of this part of the thymus. In situ detection of apoptosis of thymocytes was carried out using the Apoptag kit, which can detect a single cell apoptosis. The mean number of apoptotic cells in five randomly selected fields of each part of the thymus was defined as the apoptotic index of this part of the thymus. The proliferation index of the peripheral cortex of the 1-month-old mice was 3.6 times higher than the proliferation index of the deep cortex and 5.8 times higher than the proliferation index of the medulla (P < 0.0001). The proliferation index of the peripheral cortex of the 7-month-old mice was reduced by 45\% compared to the 1-month-old mice (P < 0.005). The apoptotic index of the corticomedullary junction of the 1-month-old mice was six times higher than the apoptotic index of the cortex and 18 times higher than the apoptotic index of the medulla. The apoptotic index of the thymic cortex was elevated by 66\% in the 7-month-old mice compared to the 1-month-old mice (P < 0.0001). We conclude that there is a reduction of the proliferation index and an elevation of the apoptotic index of the thymic cortex in adult mice compared to young mice. These changes might account for the reduction of thymic cortical cellularity during thymic involution.
This article was published in Tissue Cell
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Pathology