Evolution of thymus organogenesis

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Abstract

The thymus is the primary organ for functional T lymphocyte development in jawed vertebrates. A new study in the jawless fish, lampreys, indicates the existence of a primitive thymus in these surviving representatives of the most ancient vertebrates, providing strong evidence of co-evolution of T cells and thymus. This review summarizes the wealth of data that have been generated towards understanding the evolution of the thymus in the vertebrates. Progress in identifying genetic networks and cellular mechanisms that control thymus organogenesis in mammals and their evolution in lower species may inspire the development of new strategies for medical interventions targeting faulty thymus functions.

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