Basic biology of the rabbit immune system

The rabbit immune system is comparatively similar to the human system with only minor differences in tissue and cellular organization. The rabbit gut-as-sociated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is organized into a prominent appendix, obvious Peyer's patches and some diffuse lymphatic nodules. The human appendix is vestigial and has more diffuse lymphatic nodules. The GALT, as well as other peripheral tissues of the rabbit and human, are innervated with a well-developed lymphatic system of nodes and ducts. Also, similar to human, the rabbit has a prominent spleen and a thymus which atrophies in adulthood. Lymphopoiesis begins in the rabbit's bone marrow, and as the cells mature they populate the appropriate tissues and organs. Rabbit leukocytes are categorically similar to those in other mammalian reticuloendothelial systems. The composition of lymphoid cell populations and circulation pathways in the normal dynamic nature of the immune system are also similar, an observation which accents the relevance of studying immunology in the rabbit.

Cytokines described in rabbits include migration inhibition factor (MIF) (which was first identified in the rabbit), chemotactic factor, migration stimulation factor (MSF), interleukin 1 (IL-1), 1L-2 and tumor necrosis factor a (TNFa). It is interesting that both native and recombinant human IL-2 are effective at stimulating rabbit T cell proliferation, whereas rodent IL-2 is not.

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