Organ-specific autoimmune diseases such as gastritis, oophoritis, thyroiditis, or insulitis developed in athymic nu/nu mice after engraftment of the thymus from euthymic nu/+ mice treated with cyclosporin A (CsA), a potent immuno-suppressant. The development of autoimmune disease in the nu/nu mice was prevented by inoculation of thymocyte suspensions prepared from normal nu/+ mice, but not by thymocyte suspensions from CsA-treated nu/+ mice. Cotransplantation of normal nu/+ mouse thymus with CsA-treated thymus also suppressed the development of autoimmune disease. Inoculation of spleen cell suspensions prepared from normal adult nu/+ mice prevented autoimmune disease, but inoculation of those from newborn nu/+ mice did not. Thus, CsA appears to interfere selectively with the thymic production of certain suppressor T cells controlling self-reactive (autoimmune) T cells, allowing the latter to expand and cause autoimmune disease.

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