Accumulation of bromodeoxyuridine-labeled cells in central and peripheral lymphoid organs: minimal estimates of production and turnover rates of mature lymphocytes

Eur J Immunol. 1990 Aug;20(8):1697-708. doi: 10.1002/eji.1830200812.


Daily lymphocyte production in both central and peripheral lymphoid organs was evaluated by associating in vivo incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdUrd) with cell surface labeling and multi-parameter flow analysis. At least 10% of mature T and B lymphocytes are generated every 24 h. The kinetic behavior of these cell populations differs, however, in that mature B cells are generated predominantly in the precursor compartments of the bone marrow, while most mature T cell generation occurs at the periphery. Therefore, peripheral expansion is the major mechanism of mature T cell production in the adult mouse. By following the accumulation of BrdUrd-labeled cells in peripheral lymphoid organs we found that the progeny of the daily lymphocyte production was sufficient to renew 30%-40% of all peripheral T and B cells every 48 h, demonstrating a high turnover rate of mature lymphocytes. We also examined the conditions of BrdUrd labeling of cycling cells in vivo. We found that while greater than 90% of bone marrow and thymus cells in S phase were labeled with a single injection of BrdUrd, in peripheral lymphoid compartments 70% of T and B cells in S failed to incorporate BrdUrd. Particular schedules of BrdUrd administration were required to overcome the low labeling efficiency of mature cells in vivo. Prolonged BrdUrd administration, however, had toxic effects on resident cells. The low labeling efficiency of BrdUrd incorporation by mature cells, as well as its potential toxicity during prolonged administration, may explain controversial results obtained by the different strategies used to study lymphocyte population dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Division*
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Female
  • Germ-Free Life
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Peyer's Patches / cytology
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / cytology


  • DNA
  • Bromodeoxyuridine