In rabbits, complete thymectomy before the age of 5 days produced immunologic deficiency in the adult animals, as indicated by reduced antibody production to bovine serum albumin and bacteriophage T2. Homotransplantation immunity was unaffected, however.

In an inbred strain of mice, complete neonatal thymectomy resulted in complete inability of the 60-day-old animals to form antibody to bacteriophage T2.

Inbred mice, completely thymectomized at birth, had a deficient homograft response, indicated by acceptance of skin homografts from strains differing in both the weaker and stronger (H-2) histocompatibility antigens. Tumor transplants (mammary adenocarcinoma) were also successful across the H-2 genetic barrier in mice thymectomized at birth. Neonatal thymectomy also eliminated the Eichwald-Silmser phenomenon, rendering female mice capable of accepting isografts of male skin.

Transplantation immunity in mice was also affected by later thymectomy, at 30 days of age, in certain strain combinations involving weak histocompatibility differences.

Spleen and lymph node cells from mice thymectomized at birth or at 6 days of age, and sacrificed 2 months later, did not produce a graft versus host reaction in appropriate F1 hybrid recipients, indicating that such cells are immunologically inactive.

Neonatal thymectomy of F1 hybrid mice, and in one strain combination thymectomy at 40 days of age, produced animals with inordinate susceptibility to runt disease (homologous disease) following injection of parent strain spleen cells 35 days (neonatal surgery) and 10 days (surgery at 40 days) later.

Mice thymectomized at birth also showed growth failure and were short-lived.

Studies of newborn mice indicated that they have true lymphocytes only in the thymus, and lack such cells in the spleen, lymph nodes, and gut. In normal mice, adult lymphoid structure develops gradually, beginning during the 1st week of life and continuing for the next month. In contrast, mice thymectomized at birth do not develop mature lymphoid structure: the lymph nodes and spleens tend to be small and poorly organized, and show a quantitative deficiency in lymphoid cells.

It is our current working hypothesis that the thymus makes a major contribution toward the centrifugal distribution of lymphoid cells which, in turn, is essential to the full expression of immunologic capacity.

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