Human CD34+ Hematopoietic Stem Cell–Engrafted NSG Mice: Morphological and Immunophenotypic Features

Sandra Blümich, Hana Zdimerova, Christian Münz, Anja Kipar, Giovanni Pellegrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Immunodeficient mice engrafted with human immune cells represent an innovative tool to improve translatability of animal models for the study of human diseases. Immunophenotyping in these mice focuses on engraftment rates and cellular differentiation in blood and secondary lymphoid organs, and is predominantly carried out by FACS (fluorescent activated cell sorting) analysis; information on the morphological aspects of engraftment and the prevalence of histologic lesions is limited. We histologically examined 3- to 6-month-old NSG mice, naïve or engrafted with CD34+ human hemopoietic stem cells (HSC), and employed a quantitative immunohistochemical approach to identify human and murine cell compartments, comparing the results with the FACS data. NSG mice mainly exhibited incidental findings in lungs, kidneys, testes, and adrenal glands. A 6-month-old NSG mouse had a mediastinal lymphoblastic lymphoma. The lymphoid organs of NSG mice lacked typical lymphoid tissue architecture but frequently exhibited small periarteriolar leukocyte clusters in the spleen. Mice engrafted with human HSC frequently showed nephropathy, ovarian atrophy, cataract, and abnormal retinal development, lesions considered secondary to irradiation. In addition, 20% exhibited multisystemic granulomatous inflammatory infiltrates, dominated by human macrophages and T cells, leading to the observed 7% mortality and morbidity. Immunophenotypic data revealed variable repopulation of lymphoid organs with hCD45+ human cells, which did not always parallel the engraftment levels measured via FACS. The study describes the most common pathological features in young NSG mice after human HSC engraftment. As some of these lesions contribute to morbidity, morphological assessment of the engraftment at tissue level might help improve immunophenotypic evaluations of this animal model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-180
Number of pages20
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • CD34 stem cells
  • IL-2Rγ
  • NSG mice
  • Prkdc
  • engraftment
  • graft versus host disease
  • granulomatous inflammation
  • humanized mice
  • lymphoma
  • nonobese diabetic mice
  • radiation nephropathy


Dive into the research topics of 'Human CD34+ Hematopoietic Stem Cell–Engrafted NSG Mice: Morphological and Immunophenotypic Features'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this