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The Thymus–Neuroendocrine Axis

Physiology, Molecular Biology, and Therapeutic Potential of the Thymic Peptide Thymulin

Authors

  • Paula C. Reggiani,

    1. Institute for Biochemical Research, Faculty of Medicine, CONICET, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
    2. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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    • These two authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Gustavo R. Morel,

    1. Institute for Biochemical Research, Faculty of Medicine, CONICET, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
    2. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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    • These two authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Gloria M. Cónsole,

    1. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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  • Claudio G. Barbeito,

    1. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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  • Silvia S. Rodriguez,

    1. Institute for Biochemical Research, Faculty of Medicine, CONICET, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
    2. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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  • Oscar A. Brown,

    1. Institute for Biochemical Research, Faculty of Medicine, CONICET, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
    2. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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  • Maria Jose Bellini,

    1. Institute for Biochemical Research, Faculty of Medicine, CONICET, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
    2. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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  • Jean-Marie Pléau,

    1. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 8147, Université Paris V, Hôpital Necker, Paris, France
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  • Mireille Dardenne,

    1. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 8147, Université Paris V, Hôpital Necker, Paris, France
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  • Rodolfo G. Goya

    1. Institute for Biochemical Research, Faculty of Medicine, CONICET, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
    2. Histology B- Scientific Research Commission of the Province of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, La Plata, Argentina
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Address for correspondence: Rodolfo G. Goya, INIBIOLP, Faculty of Medicine, UNLP, CC 455, 1900 La Plata, Argentina. Voice: 54-221-425-6735; fax: 54-221-425-0924/425-8988. rgoya@netverk.com.ar (please CC to preggiani@fcm.uncu.edu.ar)

Abstract

Thymulin is a thymic hormone exclusively produced by the thymic epithelial cells. It consists of a nonapeptide component coupled to the ion zinc, which confers biological activity to the molecule. After its discovery in the early 1970s, thymulin was characterized as a thymic hormone involved in several aspects of intrathymic and extrathymic T cell differentiation. Subsequently, it was demonstrated that thymulin production and secretion is strongly influenced by the neuroendocrine system. Conversely, a growing core of information, to be reviewed here, points to thymulin as a hypophysotropic peptide. In recent years, interest has arisen in the potential use of thymulin as a therapeutic agent. Thymulin was shown to possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties in the brain. Furthermore, an adenoviral vector harboring a synthetic gene for thymulin, stereotaxically injected in the rat brain, achieved a much longer expression than the adenovirally mediated expression in the brain of other genes, thus suggesting that an anti-inflammatory activity of thymulin prevents the immune system from destroying virus-transduced brain cells. Other studies suggest that thymulin gene therapy may also be a suitable therapeutic strategy to prevent some of the endocrine and metabolic alterations that typically appear in thymus-deficient animal models. The present article briefly reviews the literature on the physiology, molecular biology, and therapeutic potential of thymulin.

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