Age-dependent morphometrical changes in the thymus of male propranolol-treated rats
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In order to elucidate a putative role of neurally derived noradrenaline in the thymus development, and in maintenance of adult thymus structure, sexually immature male rats (21-day-old at the beginning of treatment) and young adult animals (75-day-old on the beginning of treatment) were treated with the non-selective beta-adrenoceptor antagonist propranolol (0.40 mg/100 g BW/day, s.c.) for 15 consecutive days, and their thymuses were analyzed stereologically. The effects of beta-adrenoceptor blockade were much more pronounced in sexually immature than in adult rats. In immature propranolol-treated rats the thymus size and volumes of both the main compartments (cortex and medulla) were significantly decreased reflecting, at least partly, a reduction in the overall number of thymocytes. Furthermore, in both the cortical subcompartments (outer and deep cortex) the mean diameter of thymocytes was increased. However, in adult rats exposed to propranolol treatment, only the volume of interlo...bular connective tissue was enlarged, whereas in the outer part of the cortex the mean thymocyte diameter was increased. These results indicate that the lack of sympathetic input (via beta-adrenoceptors) during the prepubertal period of development diminishes the normal thymus growth and/or accelerates the thymic involution that starts at puberty, immediately after its maximum size is reached, while it is less significant for the maintenance of the thymus size and structure in adults. Additionally, they suggest that distinct cell types, as well as thymocyte subsets, are sensitive to lack of beta-adrenoceptor-mediated influences in sexually immature and adult rats.
Keywords:rat thymus / propranolol / morphometry / sexual maturation
Source:Annals of Anatomy - Anatomischer Anzeiger, 2004, 186, 2, 141-147
- Elsevier Gmbh, Urban & Fischer Verlag, Jena