Journal of anatomy

On the prenatal initiation of T cell development in the opossum Monodelphis domestica.

PMID 28052333


Thymus-dependent lymphocytes (T cells) are a critical cell lineage in the adaptive immune system of all jawed vertebrates. In eutherian mammals the initiation of T cell development takes place prenatally and the offspring of many species are born relatively immuno-competent. Marsupials, in contrast, are born in a comparatively altricial state and with a less well developed immune system. As such, marsupials are valuable models for studying the peri- and postnatal initiation of immune system development in mammals. Previous results supported a lack of prenatal T cell development in a variety of marsupial species. In the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica, however, there was evidence that αβT cells were present on postnatal day 1 and likely initiated development prenatally. Demonstrated here is the presence of CD3ε(+) lymphocytes in late-stage embryos at a site in the upper thoracic cavity, the site of an early developing thymus. CD3ε(+) cells were evident as early as 48xa0h prior to parturition. In day 14 embryos, where there is clear organogenesis, CD3ε(+) cells were only found at the site of the early thymus, consistent with no extra-thymic sites of T cell development in the opossum. These observations are the first evidence of prenatal T cell lineage commitment in any marsupial.

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p-Xylene-bis(N-pyridinium bromide), ≥95% (TLC)