ROLE OF THE THYMUS IN TRANSPLANTATION TOLERANCE IN MINIATURE SWINE: III. Surgical Manipulation of the Thymus Interferes with Stable Induction of Tolerance to Class I-Mismatched Renal Allografts1

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Previous studies have demonstrated that long-term tolerance of class I mismatched renal allografts in miniature swine is induced by a short course of cyclosporine (CyA), and that a total thymectomy 21 days before transplantation abrogates the induction of stable tolerance. We have now examined the effects of surgical manipulation of the thymus, with or without a reduction in the thymic volume, on the induction of tolerance.

Materials and Methods.

Miniature swine receiving a transplant of a class I-mismatched renal allograft and 12 days of CyA underwent either (1) a partial thymectomy 21 days before kidney transplantation (day −21), (2) serial thymic biopsies (to evaluate the effect of surgical trauma and reduction in volume of the thymus) or serial incisions of the thymus thymus (to evaluate the effect of surgical trauma without changes in thymic volume), (3) a sham thymectomy on day −21, or serial sham thymic surgery on the same POD as the thymic biopsies and incisions (control animals).


Control animals had a stable plasma creatinine, had donor-specific unresponsiveness in cell-mediated lympholysis (CML) assays, had absence of rejection in kidney biopsy specimens, and did not develop anti-donor class I immunoglobulin (Ig)G alloantibodies. Animals undergoing a partial thymectomy on day −21 or serial thymic biopsies showed severe renal dysfunction, histological evidence of rejection in kidney biopsy specimens and anti-donor reactivity in CML assays; all but one animal developed anti-donor class I IgG alloantibodies. Serial incisions of the thymus induced an increase in plasma creatinine and histological rejection in 1 of 3 animals and anti-donor cytotoxic T cells in vitro in all 3 animals.


A partial thymectomy or serial thymic biopsies markedly interfere with the induction of tolerance to renal allografts. Serial thymic incisions also interfere with the induction of tolerance, but to a lesser degree. These studies may have implications for tolerance-inducing protocols that involve thymic manipulation.

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