Hypomethylation of DNA, which can be achieved by incorporation of 5-azacytidine, has been correlated with derepression of genes. In order to examine the in vivo effects of 5-azacytidine on organ development and differentiation, young rats were treated with the drug. There was an almost complete reduction of thymus and a marked reduction of spleen weight, while other organs, including testes were only marginally affected. Control experiments with cytosine-arabinoside suggest that treatment with an inhibitor of DNA replication per se is not responsible for the very rapid thymus involution triggered by 5-azacytidine in rats. In spite of the drastic reduction of thymus and spleen weight, lymphocytes of these organs were not impaired in their response to the T cell mitogen Concanavalin A.

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