Alterations in the thymocyte phenotype of EphB-deficient mice largely affect the double negative cell compartment


Dr A. Zapata, Department of Cell Biology, Faculty of Biology, Complutense University of Madrid, C/José Antonio Nováis, Ciudad Universitaria, C.P. 28040, Madrid, Spain. Email:
Senior author: Agustín Zapata


In the present study, we have analysed the phenotype of EphB2 and/or EphB3 deficient thymocytes confirming and extending previous studies on the role of this family of molecules in T-cell differentiation. In all mutant thymuses statistically significant reduced cell contents were observed. This reduction of thymic cellularity correlated with increased proportions of apoptotic cells, largely both double negative (DN; CD4 CD8) and double positive (CD4+ CD8+) cells, and decreased proportions of DN cycling cells. Adult deficient thymuses also showed increased proportions of DN cells but not significant variations in the percentages of other thymocyte subsets. In absolute terms, the thymocyte number decreased significantly in all thymocyte compartments from the DN3 (CD44 CD25+) cell stage onward, without variations in the numbers of both DN1 (CD44+ CD25) and DN2 (CD44+ CD25+) cells. Remarkably, all these changes also occurred from the 15-day fetal EphB2 and/or EphB3 deficient mice, suggesting that adult phenotype results from the gradual accumulations of defects appearing early in the thymus ontogeny. As a reflection of thymus condition, a reduction in the number of T lymphocytes occurred in the peripheral blood and mesenteric lymph nodes, but not in spleen, maintaining the proportions of T-cell subsets defined by CD4/CD8 marker expression, in all cases.