Send to

Choose Destination
Ophthalmologe. 2003 Nov;100(11):929-42.

[Eye-associated lymphoid tissue (EALT) is continuously spread throughout the ocular surface from the lacrimal gland to the lacrimal drainage system].

[Article in German]

Author information

Augenklinik-Forschungslabor, Charite-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Virchow Klinikum.



Components of the mucosal immune system (MALT) have been identified in the conjunctiva (as CALT) and the lacrimal drainage system (as LDALT). Their structural and functional relation with the established immune protection by the lacrimal gland is unclear.


Macroscopically normal and complete tissues of the conjunctiva, lacrimal drainage system and lacrimal gland from human body donors were investigated by analysis of translucent whole mounts, and using histology, immunohistology as well as scanning and transmission electron microscopy.


A typical diffuse lymphoid tissue, composed of effector cells of the immune system (T-lymphocytes and IgA producing plasma cells) under an epithelium that contains the IgA transporter SC, is not isolated in the conjunctiva and lacrimal drainage system. It is anatomically continuous from the lacrimal gland along its excretory ducts into the conjunctiva and from there via the lacrimal canaliculi into the lacrimal drainage system. Lymphoid follicles occur in a majority (about 60%) and with bilateral symmetry. The topography of CALT corresponds to the position of the cornea in the closed eye.


These results show that the MALT of the lacrimal gland, conjunctiva and lacrimal drainage system constitute an anatomical and functional unit for immune protection of the ocular surface. Therefore it should be integrated as an "eye-associated lymphoid tissue" (EALT) into the MALT system of the body. EALT can detect ocular surface antigens by the lymphoid follicles and can supply other organs and the ocular surface including the lacrimal gland with specific effector cells via the regulated recirculation of lymphoid cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center