Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jul 20;24(14):11705. doi: 10.3390/ijms241411705.
Immune responses in humanized mice are generally inefficient without co-transplantation of human thymus or HLA transgenes. Previously, we generated humanized mice via the intra-bone marrow injection of CD133+ cord blood cells into irradiated adult immunodeficient mice (IBMI-huNSG mice), which could mount functional immune responses against HTLV-1, although the underlying mechanisms were still unknown. Here, we investigated thymocyte development in IBMI-huNSG mice, focusing on the roles of human and mouse MHC restriction. IBMI-huNSG mice had normal developmental profiles but aberrant thymic structures. Surprisingly, the thymic medulla-like regions expanded after immunization due to enhanced thymocyte expansion in association with the increase in HLA-DR+ cells, including CD205+ dendritic cells (DCs). The organ culture of thymus from immunized IBMI-huNSG mice with a neutralizing antibody to HLA-DR showed the HLA-DR-dependent expansion of CD4 single positive thymocytes. Mature peripheral T-cells exhibited alloreactive proliferation when co-cultured with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Live imaging of the thymus from immunized IBMI-huNSG mice revealed dynamic adhesive contacts of human-derived thymocytes and DCs accompanied by Rap1 activation. These findings demonstrate that an increase in HLA-DR+ cells by immunization promotes HLA-restricted thymocyte expansion in humanized mice, offering a unique opportunity to generate humanized mice with ease.