Anatomy and Embryology of the Thymus

  • W. J. Hofmann
  • H. F. Otto
Part of the Medical Radiology book series (MEDRAD)


The thymus is an important organ of the immune system (see Chap. 3). Numerous experimental and clinicopathologic investigations have demonstrated that the immunologic function of the thymus is closely dependent on the presence of normal thymic structures.


Thymic Carcinoma Thymic Epithelial Cell Thymus Gland Thymic Atrophy Human Thymus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Auger C, Stahli C, Fabien N, Monier J-C (1987) Intracellular localization of thymosin alpha-1 by immunoelectron microscopy using a monoclonal antibody. J Histochem Cytochem 35:181–187PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Champion S, Imhof BA, Savanger P, Thiery JP (1986) The embryonic thymus produces chemotactic peptides involved in the homing of hematopoietic precursors. Cell 44:781–790PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ciba Foundation Symposium, No. 84 (1981) Microenvironments in haemapoietic and lymphoid differentiation. Pitman, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Clarke AG, MacLennan KA (1986) The many facets of thymic involution. Immunol Today 7:204–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dalakas MC, Engel WK, McClure JE, Goldstein AJ, Asconas V (1981) Immunocytochemical characterization of thymosin alpha-1 in thymic epithelial cells of normal and myasthenia gravis patients and in thymic cultures. J Neurol Sci 50:239–247PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeMaagd RA, Mackenzie WA, Schuurman HJ, Ritter MA, Price KM, Broekhuizen R, Kater L, (1985) The human thymic microenvironment: heterogeneity detected by monoclonal antiepithelial antibodies. Immunology 54:745–754Google Scholar
  7. Dourov N (1970) L’atrophie thymo-lymphatique chez le nourrisson après traitment prolongé à l’ACTH. Pathol Europ 5:216–231Google Scholar
  8. Dourov N (1986) Thymic atrophy and immunodeficiency in malnutrition. In: Müller-Hermelink H-K (ed) The human thymus. Histophysiology and pathology. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 127–150Google Scholar
  9. Fabien N, Auger C, Monier J-C (1988) Immunolocalisation of thymosin alpha-1, thymopoietin and thymulin in mouse thymic epithelial cells at different ages of culture: a light and electron microscopic study. Immunology 63: 721–727PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Fujiwara S, Kobayashi H, Awaya A (1988) The distribution and structure of FTS immunoreactive cells in the thymus of the mouse. Arch Histol Cytol 51: 467–472PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gay-Bellile V, Boumsell L, Caillou B, Bernard A (1986) Phenotypic characterization of the thymic microenvironment. Study of the human thymus architecture. Thymus 8:201–223PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Gilmour JR (1941) Some developmental abnormalities of the thymus and parathyroids. J Pathol Bacteriol 52: 213–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hammar JA (1905) Zur Histogenese und Involution der Thymusdrüse. Anat Anz 27: 23–30,41–89Google Scholar
  14. Hammar JAA (1906) Über Gewicht, Involution und Persistenz des Thymus im Postfötalleben des Menschen. Arch Anat Physiol, Anat Abt (Suppl): 91–1982Google Scholar
  15. Hammar JA (1926) Der Menschenthymus in Gesundheit und Krankheit: Ergebnisse der numerischen Analyse von mehr als tausend menschlichen Thymusdrüsen. Teil 1: Das normale Organ — zugleich eine kritische Beleuchtung der Lehre des “Status thymicus”. Z Mikrosk Anat Forsch 6 (Suppl): 1–570Google Scholar
  16. Haynes BF (1984) The human thymic microenvironment. Adv Immunol 36: 87–142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Henry L (1968) “Accidental” involution of the human thymus. J Pathol Bact 96:337–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hofmann W, Möller P, Momburg F, Moldenhauer G, Otto HF (1984) Struktur des normalen Thymus, der lymphofollikulären Thymushyperplasie und der Thymome, dargestellt mit Lectinen, S-100-Protein und Keratin-Antiseren und monoklonalen (epitheliotropen) Antikörpern. Verh Dtsch Ges Pathol 68: 504Google Scholar
  19. Hofmann WJ, Möller P, Otto HF (1990) Hyperplasia. In: Givel JC (ed) Surgery of the thymus. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 59–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hofmann WJ, Momburg F, Möller P (1988 a) Thymic medullary cells expressing B lymphocyte antigens. Hum Pathol 19:1280–1287PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hofmann WJ, Momburg F, Möller P, Otto HF (1988b) Intra- and extrathymic B cells in physiological and pathological conditions. Immunohistochemical study on normal thymus and lymphofollicular hyperplasia of the thymus. Virchows Arch [A] 412: 431–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hofmann WJ, Pallesen G, Möller P, Kunze W-P, Kayser K, Otto HF (1989) Expression of cortical and medullary thymic epithelial antigens in thymomas. An immunohis-tological study of 14 cases including a characterization of the lymphocytic compartment. Histopathology 14: 447–463PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Isaacson PG, Norton AJ, Addis BJ (1987) The human thymus contains a novel population of B lymphocytes. Lancet II: 1488–1490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kaiserling E, Stein H, Müller-Hermelink HK (1974) Interdigitating reticulum cells in the human thymus. Cell Tissue Res 155: 47–55PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kast WM, deWaal LP, McLief CJM (1984) Thymus dictates major histocompatibility complex (MHC) specificity and immune response gene phenotype of class II MHC-restricted T cells but not calls I MHC-restricted T cells. J Exp Med 160:1752–1766PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kendall MD (1984) Have we underestimated the importance of the adult human thymus? Experientia 40: 1181–1185PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kruisbeek AM, Longo DL (1985) Acquisition of MCH-restriction specificities: role of thymic stromal cells. Surv Immunol Res 4:110–119PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kyewski BA, Fathman CG, Rouse RV (1986) Intrathymic presentation of circulating non-MHC antigens by medullary dendritic cells. J Exp Med 163: 231–246PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Levine GD, Rosai J (1978) Thymic hyperplasia and neoplasia: a review of current concepts. Hum Pathol 9:495–515PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levine GD, Bearman RM (1980) The thymus. In: Johannessen JV (ed) Electron microscopy in human medicine, vol 5. McGraw-Hill, New York, pp 214–254Google Scholar
  31. Linder J (1987) The thymus gland in secondary immunodeficiency. Arch Pathol Lab Med 111: 1118–1122PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Marino M, Müller-Hermelink H-K (1985) Thymoma and thymic carcinoma — relation of thymoma epithelial cells to the cortical and medullary differentiation of thymus. Virchows Arch [A] 407:119–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Marrock P, McCormack J, Kappler J (1989) Presentation of antigen, foreign major histocompatibility complex proteins and self by thymus cortical epithelium. Nature 338: 503–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mathieson BJ, Fowlkes BJ (1984) Cell surface antigen expression on thymocytes: development and phenotypic differentiation of intrathymic subsets. Immunol Rev 82: 141–173PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McFarland EJ, Scearce RM, Haynes BF (1984) The human thymic microenvironment: cortical thymic epithelium is an antigenetically distinct region of the thymic microenvironment. J Immunol 133:1241–1249PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Moore AV, Korobkin M, Olanow W, Heaston DK, Ram PC, Dunnick NR, Silverman PM (1983) Age-related changes in the thymus gland. CT-pathologic correlation. AJR 141: 291Google Scholar
  37. Muller-Hermelink H-K (ed) (1986) Current topics in pathology 75. The human thymus. Histophysiology and pathology. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Nabarra B, Papiernik M (1988) Phenotype of thymicstromal cells. An immunoelectron microscopic study with anti-IA, anti-MAC-1, and anti-MAC-2 antibodies. Lab Invest 58: 524–531PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Nakahama M, Mohri N, Mori S, Shindo G, Yokoi Y, Machinami R (1990) Immunohistochemical and histometrical studies of the human thymus with special emphasis on age-related changes in medullary epithelial and dendritic cells. Virchows Arch B Cell Pathol 58: 245–251Google Scholar
  40. Norris EH (1938) The morphogenesis and histogenesis of the thymus gland in man: in which the origin of the Hassall’s corpuscles of the human thymus is discovered. Carnegie Inst Wsh Publ no 496. Contrib Embryol 27:191–221Google Scholar
  41. Oates KK, Naylor PH, Goldstein AL (1987) Localization of thymosin alpha-1 production to thymus medullary epithelial cells by use of monoclonal antibodies. Hybridoma 6:47PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Otto HF (1984) Pathologie des Thymus. In: Doerr W, Seifert G, Uehlinger E (eds) Spezielle pathologische Anatomie, vol 17. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Reinherz EL, Schlossman SF (1980) The differentiation and function of human T lymphocytes. Cell 19: 821–827PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ritter MA, Sauvage CA, Cotmore SF (1981) The human thymus microenvironment: in vivo identification of thymic nurse cells and other antigenically distinct subpopulations of epithelial cells. Immunology 44:439–446PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Rosai J, Levine GD (1976) Tumors of the thymus. In: Atlas of tumor pathology, second series, fascicle 13. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  46. Rouse RV, Parham P, Grumet FC, Weisman JL (1982) Expression of HLA antigens by human thymic epithelial cells. Human Immunol 5:21–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Royer HD, Acuto O, Fabbi M, Tizard R, Ramachandram K (1984) Genes encoding the Tib subunit of the antigen/MHC receptor undergo rearrangement during intrathymic ontogeny prior to surface T3/Ti expression. Cell 39:261–266PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ruco LP, Pisacane A, Pomponi D, Stoppacciaro A, Pecarmona E, Rendina EA, Santoni A, Boraschi D, Tagliabue AT, Uccini S, Baroni CD (1990) Macrophages and interdigitating reticulum cells in normal human thymus and thymomas: immunoreactivity for interieukin-1 alpha, interleukin-1 beta and tumour necrosis factor alpha. Histopathology 17:291–299PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. SavagnerP, ImhofBA, Yamada KM, Thiery J-P (1986) Homing of hemopoietic precursor cells to the embryonic thymus: characterization of an invasive mechanism induced by chemotactic peptides. Cell Biol 103:2715–2727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Schmitt D, Monier JC, Dardsenne M, Pleau JM, Bach JF (1982) Location of FTS (facteur thymique serique) in the thymus of normal and autoimmune mice. Thymus 4:221–231PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Schuurman H-J, Krone WJA, Broekhuizen R, van Baarlen J, van Veen P, Goldstein AL, Huber J, Goudsmit J (1989) The thymus in aquired immune deficiency syndrome. Comparison with other types of immunodeficiency diseases, and presence of components of humanimmunodeficiency virus type 1. Am J Pathol 134: 1329–1338PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Scollay R (1983) Intrathymic events in the differentiation of T lymphocytes: a continuing enigma. Immunol Today 4:282–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Serrate SA, Schulof RS, Leonaridis L, Goldstein AL, Sztein MB (1987) Modulation of natural killer cell cytotoxic activity, lymphokine production, and interleukin 2 receptor expression by thymic hormones. J Immunol 139: 2338PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Singer KH, Wolf LS, Lobach DF, Denning SM, Tuck DT, Robertson AL, Haynes BF (1986) Human thymocytes bind to autologous and allogeneic thymic epithelial cells in vitro. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 83: 6588–6592PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Steinmann GG (1984) Altersveränderungen des menschlichen Thymus. Habilitationsschrift, Faculty of Medicine, University of KielGoogle Scholar
  56. Steinmann GG (1986) Changes in the human thymus during aging. In: Muller-Hermelink H-K (ed) The human thymus. Histophysiology and pathology. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 43–88Google Scholar
  57. Stutman O, Good RA (1974) Duration of thymic function. Semin Hematol 7: 504–523Google Scholar
  58. Suster S, Rosai J (1990) Histology of the normal thymus. Am J Surg Pathol 14:284–303PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sztein MB, Goldstein AL (1986) Thymic hormones — a clinical update. Springer Semin Immunopathol 9:1–18PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sztein MB, Serrate SA, Goldstein AL (1986) Modulation of interleukin 2 receptor expression on normal human lymphocytes by thymic hormones. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 83:6107–6111PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Takacs L, Savino W, Monostori E, Ando I, Bach J-F, Dardenne M (1987) Cortical thymocyte differentiation in thymomas: an immunohistologic analysis of the pathologic microenvironment. J Immunol 138:687–698PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. van Baarlen J, Schuurman H-J, Huber J (1988) Acute thymus involution in infancy and childhood: A reliable marker for duration of acute illness. Hum Pathol 19: 1155–1160PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. van Ewijk W (1988) Cell surface topography of thymic microenvironments. Lab Invest 59:579–590PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. von Gaudecker B (1978) Ultrastructure of the age-involuted adult human thymus. Cell Tissue Res 186: 507–525CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. von Gaudecker B (1986) The development of the human thymus microenvironment. In: Müller-Hermelink HK (ed) The human thymus. Histophysiology and pathology. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 1–41Google Scholar
  66. von Gaudecker B, Müller-Hermelink HK (1980) Ontogeny and organization of the stationary non-lymphoid cells in the human thymus. Cell Tissue Res 207: 287–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. von Gaudecker B, Steinmann GG, Hansmann M-L, Harpprecht J, Milicevic NM, Müller-Hermelink H-K (1986) Immunohistochemical characterization of the thymic microenvironment. A light-microscopic and ultrastructural immunocytochemical study. Cell Tissue Res 244:403–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wekerle H, Ketelson VP, Ernst M (1980) Thymic muscle cells. Lymphoepithelial complexes in neuronic thymuses: morphological and serological characterization. J Exp Med 151: 925–944PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Weller GL (1933) Development of the thyroid, parathyroid, and thymus glands in man. Carnegie Inst Wsh Publ no 443. Contrib Embryol 24: 93–143Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Hofmann
  • H. F. Otto

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations