Effects of thymectomy at various times after birth on effector and suppressor T cells for a delayed footpad reaction were determined in 6-week-old mice immunized intraperitoneally (ip) with sheep erythrocytes (SRBC). Mice thymectomized 1 day after birth (Tx-1 mice) gave delayed footpad reactions weaker than those of mice thymectomized 7 days after birth (Tx-7 mice) or sham operated (SH mice) after immunization with a low dose of SRBC. After immunization with a high dose of SRBC, on the other hand, Tx-1 mice showed reactions stronger than those of Tx-7 or SH mice. Pretreatment with cyclophosphamide (CY) augmented the delayed footpad reaction in Tx-7 or SH mice, but not in Tx-1 mice, immunized with a high dose of SRBC. The presence of T cells suppressive for the delayed footpad reaction in the spleen of Tx-7 or SH mice was confirmed by cell transfer experiments. These results suggest that effector T cells responsible for a delayed footpad reaction to SRBC are less thymus dependent and require the presence of the thymus for a shorter period in their development compared to suppressor T cells.
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