Identification of dendritic cells, B cell and T cell subsets in Tasmanian devil lymphoid tissue; evidence for poor immune cell infiltration into devil facial tumors

Lauren J. Howson, Katrina M. Morris, Takumi Kobayashi, Cesar Tovar, Alexandre Kreiss, Anthony T. Papenfuss, Lynn Corcoran, Katherine Belov, Gregory M. Woods

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The Tasmanian devil is under threat of extinction due to the transmissible devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). This fatal tumor is an allograft that does not induce an immune response, raising questions about the activity of Tasmanian devil immune cells. T and B cell analysis has been limited by a lack of antibodies, hence the need to produce such reagents. Amino acid sequence analysis revealed that CD4, CD8, IgM, and IgG were closely related to other marsupials. Monoclonal antibodies were produced against CD4, CD8, IgM, and IgG by generating bacterial fusion proteins. These, and commercial antibodies against CD1a and CD83, identified T cells, B cells and dendritic cells by immunohistochemistry. CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were identified in pouch young thymus, adult lymph nodes, spleen, bronchus- and gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Their anatomical distribution was characteristic of mammalian lymphoid tissues with more CD4+ than CD8+ cells in lymph nodes and splenic white pulp. IgM+ and IgG+ B cells were identified in adult lymph nodes, spleen, bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue and gut-associated lymphoid tissue, with more IgM+ than IgG+ cells. Dendritic cells were identified in lymph node, spleen and skin. This distribution is consistent with eutherian mammals and other marsupials, indicating they have the immune cell subsets for an anti-tumor immunity. Devil facial tumor disease tumors contained more CD8+ than CD4+ cells, but in low numbers. There were also low numbers of CD1a+ and MHC class II+ cells, but no CD83+ IgM+ or IgG+ B cells, consistent with poor immune cell infiltration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)925-938
Number of pages14
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Dendritic cells
  • Devil facial tumour disease
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphocyte subsets
  • Marsupial immunology
  • Monoclonal antibody development

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