Faculty Research 1990 - 1999

Abnormal thymic expression of epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EP-CAM) in New Zealand Black (NZB) mice.

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Antigens-Neoplasm, Cell-Adhesion-Molecules, Female, Flow-Cytometry, Lymphoid-Tissue, Male, Mice, Mice-Inbred-BALB-C, Mice-Inbred-Strains, SUPPORT-U-S-GOVT-P-H-S, Thymus-Gland, Tissue-Distribution, Tumor-Markers-Biological

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J Autoimmun 1999 Dec;13(4):393-404




New Zealand Black (NZB) mice have been well documented to have a variety of thymic epithelial cell microenvironmental abnormalities, including disruption of corticoepithelial cell networks and medullary cell clusters. These abnormalities of the thymic stromal network are particularly important because similar observations have been noted in other models of murine lupus. Thymic epithelial cells, a key component of the microenvironment, play an important role in selection of the mature T cell receptor repertoire. Recently, a homotypic calcium-independent human and murine epithelial cell adhesion molecule, Ep-CAM, has been described which is located at the thymocyto-cortical cell junction. The function of Ep-CAM is still unclear but its unique location within the thymus suggests that it is critical in the process of providing maturation signals. Consequently, we examined the thymic expression of Ep-CAM in a series of autoimmune prone mice by thymic distribution of Ep-CAM in NZB, NZW, NZB/W BXSB-Yaa, MRL- lpr/lpr, C3H- gld/gld and the control strains BALB/c, C57BL6, C3H and MRL(+/+), by immunohistology and flow cytometry. Interestingly, NZB mice are similar to control mice from day 4 to 2 weeks of age, having a very low expression of Ep-CAM at the thymocyto-cortical junction. In control strains, there is a marked increased in expression of Ep-CAM beginning at 5 weeks of age. In contrast, NZB mice fail to show significant expression of Ep-CAM even well into adulthood. This abnormality of NZB mice was also noted in NZB/W F1 and BXSB mice, but not MRL- lpr/lpr or C3H- gld/gld mice. Given the potential importance of Ep-CAM in thymic selection, this study provides important evidence that a defective stromal microenvironment is likely to be of etiological significance in the susceptibility of NZB to autoimmune disease. Copyright 1999 Academic Press.

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