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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Expression of CD146 adhesion molecules (MUC18 or MCAM) in the thymic microenvironment.

The thymic microenvironment is thought to play a critical role in T-lymphocyte development, providing signals both via cell surface molecules such as adhesion molecules and soluble molecules. The present investigation is focused on immunoelectron microscopical analysis of distribution patterns of CD146 adhesion molecules (MUC18 or MCAM) in the microenvironment of normal human thymus, using the pre-embedding indirect immunoperoxidase technique. The anti-CD146 monoclonal antibody (mAb) revealed strong membraneous labelling of immature thymocytes at both the light and electron microscopical level. Proliferating thymocytes, most of the epithelial cells, macrophages, endothelial cells and smooth musle cells of small vessels and capillaries showed both membraneous and cytoplasmic labelling with anti-CD146 mAb as was demonstrated by electron microscopy. In contrast, these cells displayed a strong cytoplasmic immunoreactivity at the light microscopical level. The extracellular matrix was also stained with the anti-CD146 mAb. No labelling was observed in interdigitating cells. Interestingly, the CD146 molecule was strongly expressed on apical and lateral membranes of endothelial cells as was demonstrated electron microscopically. This selective CD146 labelling of capillary endothelium mainly localized at the cortico-medullary junction may be manifestations of lymphocyte transmembrane migration and lymphocyte homing. In conclusion, the present study suggests that CD146 is expressed by most elements of the microenvironment of normal human thymus. Therefore, it may be a pan-antigen which is essential for the maintenance of thymic architecture and function.[1]


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