In situ implantation of a quail wing bud into a chick embryo at 4 days of incubation (E4) regularly results in the normal development of the implant followed by its acute rejection starting within two weeks post-hatching. If the epithelial thymic rudiments of the quail donor are implanted into the branchial arch area of the chick recipient after partial removal of its own thymic primordia, a chimeric thymus develops in the chick host and this induces tolerance to the quail wing by the chick recipient. The species identity of cells in chimeric thymuses was mapped using Feulgen-Rossenbeck' staining and immunolabelling with monoclonal antibodies directed against quail or chick B-L antigens. Certain lobes contained only chick cells both at the stromal and hemopoietic cell levels. Others had a quail epithelial stroma containing host hemopoietically derived cells. Only chimeras in which at least one third of the thymic lobes were chimeric showed permanent tolerance to the grafted wing. Since the two species exhibit distinct developmental rates, we decided to study the kinetics of thymic involution after birth. Although the changes in thymus weight and histological structure are fundamentally similar in quail and chick, those in the quail start about 7–8 weeks earlier. In the chimeric thymuses, the lobes whose epithelial cells were quail involuted at the rate of control quail showing no influence of the hemopoietic thymic compartment in this process. Tolerance induced by the thymic epithelium during embryogenesis and in early postnatal life was maintained after a profound involution of the quail thymic graft had occurred.

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