The stem cell antigens Sca-1 and Sca-2 subdivide thymic and peripheral T lymphocytes into unique subsets

G. J. Spangrude, Y. Aihara, I. L. Weissman, J. Klein

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76 Scopus citations


Stem cell Ag 1 and 2 (Sca-1 and Sca-2), so named due to their expression by mouse bone marrow stem cells, were evaluated for expression by populations of cells within the thymus. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated that Sca-1 was expressed by cells in the thymic medulla and by some subcapsular blast cells, as well as by the thymic blood vessels and capsule. Sca-2 expression, which was limited to the thymic cortex, could be associated with large cycling thymic blast cells. Both Sca-1 and Sca-2 were expressed on a sub-population of CD4-CD8- thymocytes, and this subpopulation was entirely contained within the Ly-1(lo) progenitor fraction of cells. Sca-1 expression by a phenotypically mature subset of CD4+CD8- thymocytes was also noted. Conversely, Sca-2 expression was observed on a phenotypically immature or nonmature subpopulation of CD4-CD8+ thymocytes. MEL-14, an antibody that defines functional expression of a lymphocyte homing molecule, identified a small population of thymocytes that contained all four major thymic subsets. Sca-2 split the MEL-14(hi) thymocyte subset into two Sca-2+ non-mature/immature phenotype fractions and two Sca-2- mature phenotype fractions. In peripheral lymphoid organs, Sca-1 identified a sub-population of mature T lymphocytes that is predominantly CD4+CD8-, in agreement with the thymic distribution of Sca-1. Peripheral T cells of the CD4-CD8+ phenotype were predominantly Sca-1-. In contrast, Sca-2 did not appear to stain peripheral T lymphocytes, but recognized only a subset of B lymphocytes which could be localized by immunohistochemistry to germinal centers. Thus, expression of Sca-1 is observed throughout T cell ontogeny, whereas Sca-2 is expressed by some subsets of thymocytes, including at least one half of thymic blasts, but not by mature peripheral T lymphocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3697-3707
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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