The first step in the migration of lymphocytes out of the blood is adherence of lymphocytes to endothelial cells (EC) in the postcapillary venule. It is thought that in inflammatory reactions cytokines activate the endothelium to promote lymphocyte adherence and migration into the inflammatory site. Injection of IFN-gamma, IFN-alpha/beta, and TNF-alpha into the skin of rats stimulated the migration of small peritoneal exudate lymphocytes (sPEL) into the injection site, and these cytokines mediated lymphocyte recruitment to delayed-type hypersensitivity, sites of virus injection, and in part to LPS. The effect of cytokines on lymphocyte adherence to rat microvascular EC was examined. IFN-gamma, IFN-alpha/beta, IL-1, TNF-alpha, and TNF-beta increased the binding of small peritoneal exudate lymphocyte (sPEL) to EC. IFN-gamma was more effective and stimulated adherence at much lower concentrations than the other cytokines. IL-2 did not increase lymphocyte adherence. LPS strongly stimulated lymphocyte binding. Treatment of EC, but not sPEL, enhanced adhesion, and 24 h of treatment with IFN-gamma and IL-1 induced near maximal adhesion. Lymph node lymphocytes, which migrate poorly to inflammatory sites, adhered poorly to unstimulated and stimulated EC, whereas sPEL demonstrated significant spontaneous adhesion which was markedly increased by IFN-gamma, IL-1, and LPS. Spleen lymphocytes showed an intermediate pattern of adherence. Combinations of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha were additive in stimulating sPEL-EC adhesion. Depletion of sPEL and spleen T cells by adherence to IFN-gamma stimulated EC decreased the in vivo migration of the lymphocytes to skin sites injected with IFN-gamma, IFN-alpha/beta, TNF-alpha, poly I:C, LPS, and to delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions by 50%, and significantly increased the migration of these cells to normal lymph nodes, as compared to unfractionated lymphocytes. Thus the cytokines and lymphocytes involved in migration to cutaneous inflammation in the rat stimulate lymphocyte adhesion to rat EC in vitro, and IFN-gamma stimulated EC appear to promote the selective adhesion of inflammatory site-seeking lymphocytes.

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