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Immunology. Oct 1997; 92(2): 307–316.
PMCID: PMC1364073

The species-specific structure of microanatomical compartments in the human spleen: strongly sialoadhesin-positive macrophages occur in the perifollicular zone, but not in the marginal zone.


The microanatomical structure of human and rat splenic white pulp is compared, with special emphasis on the localization of the marginal zone occupied by immunoglobulin M (IgM)+ IgD-/dull B lymphocytes and its specialized macrophages. Our study reveals that in contrast to rats, the marginal zone of humans primarily exists in the vicinity of primary and secondary splenic follicles and that it is almost absent around the periarteriolar T-cell zones. We demonstrate that in humans there is an additional compartment, the perifollicular zone, located between the marginal zone and the red pulp. The perifollicular zone is a dynamic region of variable cellular and phenotypic composition, which can be regarded either as a part of the red pulp or of the follicles. In most cases the perifollicular zone appears as a compartment of the red pulp containing erythrocyte-filled spaces which differ from the typical red pulp sinusoids. Similar to the splenic cords, the perifollicular zone mostly harbours scattered B and T lymphocytes. However, sometimes B lymphocytes clearly predominate in the perifollicular area. In addition, strongly sialoadhesin-positive macrophages form sheaths around capillaries in the perifollicular zone. Such capillary sheaths are not observed in rats. In humans weakly sialoadhesin-positive macrophages are also present in the perifollicular zone and in the red pulp. In some specimens sialoadhesin is, however, strongly expressed by a large number of dispersed perifollicular macrophages. Interestingly, in striking contrast to rats, the human marginal zone does not contain sialoadhesin-positive macrophages and marginal metallophilic macrophages are also absent in humans. Thus, sialoadhesin-positive macrophages and IgM+ IgD- memory B lymphocytes both share the marginal zone as a common compartment in rats, while they occupy different compartments in humans. We show that the human splenic marginal zone does not contain a marginal sinus and assume that in humans the perifollicular region is the compartment where antigen and recirculating lymphocytes enter the organ.

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Selected References

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