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Am J Pathol. 1998 Jun;152(6):1463-76.

Endothelial gaps and adherent leukocytes in allergen-induced early- and late-phase plasma leakage in rat airways.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0130, USA.


Exposure of sensitized individuals to antigen can induce allergic responses in the respiratory tract, manifested by early and late phases of vasodilatation, plasma leakage, leukocyte influx, and bronchoconstriction. Similar responses can occur in the skin, eye, and gastrointestinal tract. The early-phase response involves mast cell mediators and the late-phase response is leukocyte dependent, but the mechanism of leakage is not understood. We sought to identify the leaky blood vessels, to determine whether these vessels contained endothelial gaps, and to analyze the relationship of the gaps to adherent leukocytes, using biotinylated lectins or silver nitrate to stain the cells in situ and Monastral blue as a tracer to quantify plasma leakage. Most of the leakage occurred in postcapillary venules (< 40-microns diameter), whereas most of the leukocyte migration (predominantly neutrophils) occurred in collecting venules. Capillaries and arterioles did not leak. Endothelial gaps were found in the leaky venules, both by silver nitrate staining and by scanning electron microscopy, and 94% of the gaps were distinct from sites of leukocyte adhesion or migration. We conclude that endothelial gaps contribute to both early and late phases of plasma leakage induced by antigen, but most leakage occurs upstream to sites of leukocyte adhesion.

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