The thymus requirement for the development of immunological responsiveness was determined by estimation of immune responses raised to Listeria monocytogenes in athymic nude, neonatally thymectomized, and sham-operated mice at 6 weeks of age. Not only sham-operated mice, but also neonatally thymectomized mice could completely eliminate the bacteria from the spleen and liver, while athymic nude mice could not eliminate them and showed a persistent form of infection. A strong delayed footpad reaction and acquired cellular resistance could be raised in neonatally thymectomized mice just as well as in sham-operated mice, but not in athymic nude mice. The delayed footpad reaction could be induced in neonatally thymectomized mice without an accompanying ability to inhibit macrophage migration. These results suggest that T cells responsible for immunity against listerial infection require the presence of the thymus for only a very short period in their development.
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