The thymus plays a central role in the selection of T lymphocytes that are tolerant to ‘self’ antigens and responsive to foreign pathogens. We and others have reported the expression of the pancreatic endocrine hormones, preproinsulin, proglucagon, prosomatostatin and propancreatic polypeptide in the human and mouse thymus. While mRNA expression is very low there is evidence for the presence of the translated product. In addition, we have investigated the cell types responsible for expression. In the thymus, hormone expression is enriched in the antigen-presenting cell population. Interestingly, while proglucagon, prosomatostatin and propancreatic polypeptide appear to be expressed in a macrophage population, preproinsulin expression was restricted to dendritic cells which are more potent antigen-presenting cells. The functional significance of the endogenous expression of insulin in the thymus has been indirectly investigated using transgenic models in which the transgene is introduced by the rat insulin promoter. The data suggest that thymic expression of the transgene is critical in the induction of T-cell tolerance to the transgene in the periphery. Taken together, the evidence suggests that the low-level pancreatic hormone expression in the thymus may be involved in central tolerance to proteins of restricted expression.