The introduction of clonal assays and long-term culture systems has resulted in considerable progress in the understanding of the early events that control self-renewal and commitment to differentiation of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSC). Relatively little is known about the factors that control the commitment of PHSC to the lymphoid lineages, especially the T cell lineage. In the present study, the expression of the proto-oncogene c-kit was used to isolate and study the capacity of highly purified day 14 colony-forming units-spleen (CFU-S) to reconstitute the thymus of sublethally irradiated Thy-1 congenic recipient mice. We demonstrate here that one c-kit positive (c-kitpos) stem cell upon intrathymic transfer can effectively reconstitute the thymus of a sublethally irradiated recipient. After a lag phase of 15 d, high levels of donor-derived thymocytes (Thy-1.1pos) could be detected until 65 d after transplantation in Thy-1.2pos host mice. Donor-derived cells were only detected in the lobe of the thymus in which cells were previously injected and not in the noninjected lobe. These data suggest that c-kitpos stem cells do not migrate from one lobe to another and that they do not re-seed the thymus after having migrated to the bone marrow. The level and duration of reconstitution was found to be cell dose dependent, suggesting that, over time, endogenous stem cells compete with donor stem cells for available sites in the thymus microenvironment. The data presented in this paper demonstrate that commitment of purified adult bone marrow-derived c-kitpos stem cells to the T cell differentiation pathway can occur in the thymus and does not have to happen in the bone marrow.

This content is only available as a PDF.