Quantitative studies of lymphocytes and other cell populations in the bone marrow of neonatally thymectomized C3H mice



The effects of neonatal thymectomy on the development of the lymphoid, erythroid and granulocytic cell populations in mouse bone marrow have been assessed by quantitative techniques. The numbers per unit volume of bone marrow of 17 cell types were determined in neonatally thymectomized and sham thymectomized C3H mice at two, four and eight weeks of age, and compared with those of normal C3H mice. After neonatal thymectomy the numbers of small lymphocytes, large and medium-sized lymphoid cells, and erythroid cells reached normal levels at two weeks but fell progressively to 18%, 22% and 42% of normal, respectively, by eight weeks. In sham thymectomized mice these cell populations did not differ significantly from normal. Immature and mature granulocytes were elevated in numbers two weeks after either neonatal thymectomy or sham thymectomy, suggesting a transient non-specific stimulation of granulocytopoiesis. During continuous infusion of 3H-thymidine for ten days in neonatally thymectomized mice aged four weeks and eight weeks many bone marrow small lymphocytes remained unlabeled. The results demonstrate that early postnatal development of bone marrow lymphoid and erythroid cells proceeds normally in the absence of the thymus, in accord with the concept of the bone marrow as a primary site of lymphocyte production and differentiation. In addition, some slowly-renewing small lymphocytes in bone marrow appear to be thymus-independent cells.