Contribution of neural crest-derived cells in the embryonic and adult thymus.
Foster K., Sheridan J., Veiga-Fernandes H., Roderick K., Pachnis V., Adams R., Blackburn C., Kioussis D., Coles M.
Neural crest (NC)-derived mesenchyme has previously been shown to play an important role in the development of fetal thymus. Using Wnt1-Cre and Sox10-Cre mice crossed to Rosa26(eYfp) reporter mice, we have revealed NC-derived mesenchymal cells in the adult murine thymus. We report that NC-derived cells infiltrate the thymus before day 13.5 of embryonic development (E13.5) and differentiate into cells with characteristics of smooth muscle cells associated with large vessels, and pericytes associated with capillaries. In the adult organ at 3 mo of age, these NC-derived perivascular cells continue to be associated with the vasculature, providing structural support to the blood vessels and possibly regulating endothelial cell function.