Maintenance of Peripheral Naive T Cells Is Sustained by Thymus Output in Mice but Not Humans

Immunity. 2012 Feb 24;36(2):288-97. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.02.006.


Parallels between T cell kinetics in mice and men have fueled the idea that a young mouse is a good model system for a young human, and an old mouse, for an elderly human. By combining in vivo kinetic labeling using deuterated water, thymectomy experiments, analysis of T cell receptor excision circles and CD31 expression, and mathematical modeling, we have quantified the contribution of thymus output and peripheral naive T cell division to the maintenance of T cells in mice and men. Aging affected naive T cell maintenance fundamentally differently in mice and men. Whereas the naive T cell pool in mice was almost exclusively sustained by thymus output throughout their lifetime, the maintenance of the adult human naive T cell pool occurred almost exclusively through peripheral T cell division. These findings put constraints on the extrapolation of insights into T cell dynamics from mouse to man and vice versa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Child
  • Deuterium
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphopenia / immunology
  • Lymphopenia / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Animal
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / metabolism
  • Species Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology*
  • Young Adult


  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Deuterium