The existence of stem cells committed to the T lymphoid lineage was deduced from studying how rat T and B stem cells differ in their expression of membrane W3/13 antigen and in their susceptibility in vivo to gamma irradiation. Stem cell activity of rat bone marrow and fetal liver was measured in long-term radiation chimeras using B and T cell alloantigenic surface markers to identify the progeny of donor cells. Monoclonal mouse anti-rat thymocyte antibody W3/13 labeled approximately 40% of fetal liver cells and 60-70% of young rat bone marrow cells (40% brightly, 25% dimly). Bright, dim, and negative cells were separated on a fluorescence-activated cell sorter. All B and T lymphoid stem cells in fetal liver were W3/13 bright, as were B lymphoid stem cells in bone marrow. W3/13 dim bone marrow had over half the T cell repopulating activity of unseparated marrow but gave virtually no B cell repopulation. In further experiments, the radiosensitivity of endogenous B and T lymphoid stem cells was determined by exposing host rats to between 4.5 and 10 Gy of gamma irradiation before repopulation with genetically marked marrow. The results depended on whether chimerism was assayed before day 50 or after day 100. At early times, a radioresistant T stem cell was indicated, whose activity waned later. Thus committed T stem cells of rats carry moderate amounts of W3/13 antigen and are more radioresistant but less permanently chimeragenic than the stem cells that regenerate B lymphocytes.

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