The adaptive immune system of neonates is relatively underdeveloped. The thymus is an essential organ for adaptive T cell development and might be affected during the natural course of oxygen induced lung injury. The effect of prolonged hyperoxia on the thymus, thymocyte and T cell development, and its proliferation has not been studied extensively.Methods:
Neonatal mice were exposed to 85% oxygen (hyperoxia) or room air (normoxia) up to 28 days. Flow cytometry using surface markers were used to assay for thymocyte development and proliferation.Results:
Mice exposed to prolonged hyperoxia had evidence of lung injury associated alveolar simplification, a significantly lower mean weight, smaller thymic size, lower mean thymocyte count and higher percentage of apoptotic thymocytes. T cells subpopulation in the thymus showed a significant reduction in the count and proliferation of double positive and double negative T cells. There was a significant reduction in the count and proliferation of single positive CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.Conclusions:
Prolonged hyperoxia in neonatal mice adversely affected thymic size, thymocyte count and altered the distribution of T cells sub-populations. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that prolonged hyperoxia causes defective development of T cells in the thymus.