We describe an in vitro limiting dilution culture system that supports growth and differentiation of nylon wool nonadherent bone marrow cells from athymic nude mice. Cells were seeded at low cell numbers (5-120 cells per 20-microliter microculture well) in the absence of added filler or feeder cells but in the presence of conditioned medium. Microwells positive for growth appeared to contain a single clone of cells that adhered together to form a tight cluster referred to here as a colony. A fraction of colonies contained cells that expressed an unusual spontaneous cytolytic activity. They lysed syngeneic or semisyngeneic Con A blast or tumor cell targets but seldom lysed H-2-incompatible Con A blast or tumor target cells, even in a lectin-facilitated assay. A large fraction of colonies contained lymphoid cells that expressed the T cell markers Thy-1 and Lyt-1. Colonies expressing spontaneous cytolytic activity and also containing cells with Thy-1+ and/or Lyt-1+ markers could be grown from nylon wool nonadherent nude marrow cells depleted rigorously by cell sorting of cells expressing either of these markers. Expression of Thy-1 and spontaneous cytolytic activity in a particular colony was significantly correlated. Short-term lines established from cytolytic colonies with T cell markers maintained both characteristics. The cytolytic effector cells observed in these cultures may represent an early stage in the development of the T cell repertoire.

This content is only available as a PDF.