The hairless (hr) gene is expressed in a large number of tissues, primarily the skin, and a mutation in the hr gene is responsible for the typical cutaneous phenotype of hairless mice. Mutant hr mouse strains show immune defects involving especially T cells and macrophages, as well as an age-related immunodeficiency and an accelerated atrophy of the thymus. These data suggest that the hr mutation causes a defect of this organ, although hr transcripts have not been detected in fetal or adult mice thymus. The present study analyses the thymus of young (3 mo) and adult (9 mo) homozygous hr-rh-j mice (a strain of hairless mice) by means of structural techniques and immunohistochemistry to selectively identify thymic epithelial cells, dendritic cells, and macrophages. There were structural alterations in the thymus of both young and adult rh-rh-j mice, which were more severe in older animals. These alterations consisted of relative cortical atrophy, enlargement of blood vessels, proliferation of perivascular connective tissue, and the appearance of cysts. hr-rh-j mice also showed a decrease in the number of epithelial and dendritic cells, and macrophages. Taken together, present results strongly suggest degeneration and accelerated age-dependent regression of the thymus in hr-rh-j mice, which could explain at least in part the immune defects reported in hairless mouse strains.