Molecular quantitation of thymic output in mice and the effect of IL-7

Jeffrey Pido-Lopez, Nesrina Imami, Deborah Andrew, Richard Aspinall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Aging of the murine thymus is accompanied by a measurable loss of weight and cellularity and a marked reduction in its output of T lymphocytes. This study employs a molecular approach to determine changes in the output of the murine thymus using a novel assay system based on the detection and quantitation of the excised TCRδ DNA locus from within the TCRα chain genes. In αβ+ T cells such δ excision circles (δEC) are present at higher levels in naive T cells as compared with memory T cell populations, are non-replicating, and diluted within the total peripheral αβ+ T cell pool with advancing age. This assay permits the assessment of thymic output in older animals where previous analysis was hampered by the transient nature of the naive T cell surface phenotype, and so allows the assessment of the efficacy of IL-7 as an agent to reverse thymic atrophy. Treatment of old mice with IL-7 although producing no overall change in the total number of αβ+ T cells in the peripheral T cell pool altered the component subsets. Mice treated with IL-7 showed increases in the number of αβ+TCR cells possessing δEC commensurate with improved thymic output, and the splenic T cells from IL-7-treated mice performed significantly better in in vitro functional assays compared to those from age-matched saline-treated controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2827-2836
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunology
Issue number10
Early online date24 Sept 2002
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging
  • IL-7
  • Recent thymic migrant
  • T cell development
  • Thymus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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