The effect of neonatal thymectomy on the induction of autoimmune orchitis in rats

Helen L. Lipscomb, Paul J. Gardner, J. Graham Sharp

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14 Scopus citations


The objective of these experiments was to determine the effects of neonatal thymectomy on the induction of experimental autoimmune orchitis in inbred rats of the Fischer 344 and Lewis strains. It was found that thymectomy alone in Lewis rats, and thymectomy followed by immunization with testicular extract in both Lewis and Fischer 344 rats, led to the development of autoimmune orchitis, as indicated by decreased testes weights, increased serum spermagglutinating antibody titers and histopathological changes in the testes. These data indicate that rats of the Lewis strain are genetically predisposed to the development of autoimmune orchitis, and thymectomy alone leads to active manifestations of the disease, which are further enhanced by subsequent immunization with testicular extract. In Fischer 344 rats, thymectomy followed by immunization leads to indications of early signs of experimental autoimmune orchitis. This is in contrast to experimentally induced autoimmune diseases in other model systems, where previous investigators have reported that thymectomy lessens or prevents induction of autoimmune disease. It is suggested that these differences may be related to the timing of thymectomy with regard to differences in the time of appearance of sperm antigens (at puberty) as compared to pre-natal and early neonatal appearances of other autoantigens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)209-217
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Reproductive Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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