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Int Immunol. 2008 Dec;20(12):1483-7. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxn110. Epub 2008 Sep 29.

The conduit system of the lymph node.

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Department of Molecular Cell Biology and Immunology, Vrije University (VU) Medical Center, PO Box 7057, 1007MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The lymphoid compartment of lymph nodes is impermeable to many molecules that are delivered via afferent lymphatic vessels. In the lymphoid compartment, fibroblast reticular cells form an interconnected network-the conduit system. This network has a structural function supporting tightly packed lymphocytes and antigen-presenting cells; however, it also has an important function as a molecular sieve, since it contains tubules that are the only entry point for fluid and allow only small molecules and particles (including antigens) to flow along the network. This size exclusion may prevent pathogens entering the blood from lymph. Dendritic cells can sample antigens from the conduit system and present them to nearby lymphocytes; this may be particularly important in initiating immune responses. The importance of larger antigen transport via macrophages or other cells is unclear. Lymphocytes and antigen-presenting dendritic cells actively move and interact along the conduit system, perhaps in response to chemokines or cytokines transported by the conduit system; these molecules may also be transported to high endothelial venules and regulate the attraction of blood leukocytes to the lymph nodes. The conduit system is also important for fluid distribution between afferent lymphatics and blood, but the mechanisms are not yet established.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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