Nonlymphoid, stromal cells in the mouse thymus are believed to be important in T cell maturation and have been proposed to play a central role in the acquisition of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) restriction and self-tolerance by maturing thymocytes. Both cortical and medullary epithelial cells in the thymus express high levels of class II (A) major histocompatibility antigens (MHC Ags). We show here that a specific subset of these A- epithelial cells express a transformation-associated antigen (6C3Ag) found previously on the surfaces of Abelson murine leukemia virus-transformed pre-B cells and on those bone marrow-derived stromal cell clones which support normal and preneoplastic pre-B cell proliferation. Among solid lymphoid organs, only the thymus contains 6C3Ag1 cells and within the thymus, this antigen is found exclusively on A- epithelial cells in cortical regions. It is striking that the expression of the 6C3Ag on thymic epithelium is developmentally regulated, suggesting a role for this lymphostromal antigen in the maturation of the thymic microenvironment.
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