The thymus is the immune organ producing T lymphocytes that are essential to create immunity after encountering pathogens or vaccination. This review summarizes the thymus localization and histological studies, cell composition, and function in teleost fishes. We also describe how seasonal changes, photoperiod, water temperature fluctuations, and hormones can affect thymus development in fish species. Overall, the information helps identify future studies needed to understand thymus function in fish species and the immune system’s evolutionary origins. Since fish are exposed to pathogens, especially under aquaculture conditions, knowledge about the fish thymus and T lymphocyte can also help improve fish farming protocols, considering intrinsic and environmental conditions that can contribute to achieving the best vaccine responsiveness for disease resistance.
The thymus in vertebrates plays a critical role in producing functionally competent T-lymphocytes. Phylogenetically, the thymus emerges early during evolution in jawed cartilaginous fish, and it is usually a bilateral organ placed subcutaneously at the dorsal commissure of the operculum. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of the thymus localization, histology studies, cell composition, and function in teleost fishes. Furthermore, we consider environmental factors that affect thymus development, such as seasonal changes, photoperiod, water temperature fluctuations and hormones. Further analysis of the thymus cell distribution and function will help us understand how key stages for developing functional T cells occur in fish, and how thymus dynamics can be modulated by external factors like photoperiod. Overall, the information presented here helps identify the knowledge gaps and future steps needed for a better understanding of the immunobiology of fish thymus.