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Int Immunol. 2001 Oct;13(10):1243-53.

Spatial and molecular organization of lymph node T cell cortex: a labyrinthine cavity bounded by an epithelium-like monolayer of fibroblastic reticular cells anchored to basement membrane-like extracellular matrix.

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Pathobiology, Pfizer Global Research & Development, and Department of Pathology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA.


Naive T cells encounter antigen-presenting cells within the cortex of lymph nodes to initiate primary immune responses. Within this T cell cortex is the reticular network (RN)--a system of collagen fibers and extracellular matrix (ECM) wrapped by fibroblastic reticular cells (FRC). We have investigated the distribution of various molecules, including ECM proteins and proteoglycans, in the T cell cortex of both human and rodent lymph node. We confirm and extend reports of matrix elements in the RN. In addition, we find that staining for the laminin-alpha3 chain and for tenascin reveals a 'hollow' reticular pattern, consistent with localization to the basement membrane-like covering of reticular fibers. In contrast, keratan sulfate is observed in a fine linear pattern within the RN, suggesting it is localized to the core of the fibers. Staining with the marker ER-TR7 indicates that FRC cover all identifiable ECM surfaces of the T cell cortex. Based on these findings and previous reports, we conclude that cortical lymphocytes migrate within a 'labyrinthine cavity' free of fibrillar ECM, distinguishing the T cell cortex from other loose connective tissues, and that the FRC lining of the cavity constitutes an epithelium-like boundary. We propose that this spatial organization facilitates ameboid leukocyte crawling along preformed paths of least resistance and that the basement membrane-like ECM of the FRC may facilitate fluid transport within the RN by limiting leakage from the fiber.

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