[en] Oxytocin (OT) has been shown to be the dominant peptide of the neurohypophysial family expressed by thymic epithelial and nurse cells (TEC/TNC) in various species. Thymic OT is not secreted but, after translocation of a hybrid neurophysin/MHC class I protein, is integrated within the plasma membrane of TEC, thus allowing its presentation to pre-T cells. In order to further demonstrate that thymic OT behaves like a membrane antigen, we assessed the effect of mAbs to OT on cytokine productions by cultures enriched in human TEC. 75-85% pure TEC cultures were prepared from human thymic fragments. Using immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy, ir-OT, ir-interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), ir-interleukin-6 (IL-6) and ir-leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) could be detected in these TEC cultures. ir-OT was restricted to TEC, while some ir-IL-6 and ir-LIF were also seen in occasional fibroblasts. In basal conditions, ir-IL-6 and ir-LIF (but not ir-OT and ir-IL-1 beta) were detected in the supernatants of human TEC cultures. MAbs to OT induced a marked increase of ir-IL-6 and ir-LIF secretion in TEC cultures. No significant effect was observed using mAbs against vasopressin, mouse immunoglobulins, or control ascitic fluid controls. These data show that OT is fully processed and recognized by specific mAbs at the outer surface of TEC plasma membrane. They further support that thymic OT behaves as the self-antigen of the neurohypophysial family.