Age-related differences in thymic function influence the rapidity of T cell reconstitution following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). In adults, thymic reconstitution is delayed until after marrow engraftment is established, and is significantly improved by approaches that increase marrow chimerism, such as pretransplantation irradiation. In contrast, we show that neonatal mice undergo more rapid and efficient thymic reconstitution than adults, even when bone marrow (BM) engraftment is minimal and in the absence of pretransplantation radiation. We have previously shown that the neonatal thymus produces high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that drives angiogenesis locally. In this report, we show that inhibition of VEGF prior to HSCT prevents rapid thymic reconstitution in neonates, but has no effect on thymic reconstitution in adults. These data suggest that the early radiation-independent thymic reconstitution unique to the neonatal host is mediated through VEGF, and reveals a novel pathway that might be targeted to improve immune reconstitution post-HSCT.
Copyright © 2012 American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.