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

The murine homolog of human Ep-CAM, a homotypic adhesion molecule, is expressed by thymocytes and thymic epithelial cells.

In this report, we demonstrate that gp40, a molecule previously shown to be expressed by thymic epithelial cell lines in vitro and by thymic epithelial cells in vivo, is the murine homolog of human Ep-CAM, a calcium-independent homotypic adhesion molecule. gp40 is also expressed at low levels by thymocytes and peripheral T cells. In the adult thymus, gp40 expression was inversely related to the state of thymocyte maturation, with the highest levels associated with CD4-CD8- and CD4+CD8+ thymocyte populations. Ultrastructural immunohistochemistry revealed gp40 localization to areas of thymocyte/epithelial contact and demonstrated that gp40 is also expressed by thymic dendritic cells. During fetal development, thymocytes at days 14-16 of gestation expressed high levels of gp40. At later stages, the observed decline in the frequency of gp40+ cells and levels of expression correlated with the emergence of alpha beta+ thymocytes by day 18 of gestation. In short-term cultures, stimulation of unfractionated adult thymocytes with concanavalin A increased gp40 expression, particularly among CD3hi and CD3int thymocyte populations. This demonstration that Ep-CAM, initially considered to be expressed primarily by epithelial cells, is also expressed by thymocytes, T cells and antigen-presenting cells, raises the possibility that Ep-CAM may contribute to adhesive interactions between thymocytes and epithelial cells or dendritic cells, either in the context of thymocyte development or peripheral T cell trafficking and function.[1]


  1. The murine homolog of human Ep-CAM, a homotypic adhesion molecule, is expressed by thymocytes and thymic epithelial cells. Nelson, A.J., Dunn, R.J., Peach, R., Aruffo, A., Farr, A.G. Eur. J. Immunol. (1996) [Pubmed]
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