11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type I (11beta-HSD1), an NADPH-dependent reductase, functions in intact cells to convert inactive 11-keto metabolites of glucocorticoids into biologically active glucocorticoids. The enzyme is thus capable of amplifying glucocorticoid action in tissues in which it is expressed. In the experiments presented here, we show that 11beta-HSD1 is expressed in the murine thymus and that expression increases from late fetal development to maximal levels in the adult thymus. Quantitative real time-PCR, immunoblots, and assays of enzymatic activity reveal adult thymic expression of 11beta-HSD1 mRNA and protein at levels approximately 6-7% of those observed in liver. Immunofluorescence experiments show that the enzyme is expressed in the medullary thymocytes and thymocytes present at the corticomedullary junction. These experiments extend our recognition of 11beta-HSD1 expression in cells of the immune system and lend support to the notion that glucocorticoid signaling and amplification of those signals by regeneration of active glucocorticoids from inactive 11-keto metabolites might impact intrathymic T cell development and the establishment of the immune repertoire.