The cellular immune response depends on the delivery of lymphocytes from the lymph node to the peripheral site of antigenic challenge. During their passage through the inflammatory microcirculaton, the migratory cells can become transiently immobilized or "trapped" in small caliber vessels. In this report, we used intravital microscopy and temporal area mapping to define the dynamic deformation of efferent lymph-derived mononuclear cells trapped in the systemic inflammatory microcirculation. Mononuclear cells obtained from the efferent lymph draining the oxazolone-stimulated microcirculation were labeled with fluorescent dye and reinjected into the feeding arterial circulation. Intravital video microscopy observed thousands of cells passing through the microcirculation; 35 cells were "trapped" in the oxazolone-stimulated microcirculation. Temporal area maps of the trapped cells demonstrated dramatic slowing and deformation. The cells were trapped in the microcirculation for a median of 8.90 sec (range 5-17 sec) prior to returning to the flow stream. During this period, the cells showed sustained movement associated with both antegrade locomotion (mean cell velocity = 7.92 microm/sec; range 1.16-14.23 microm/sec) and dynamic elongation (median cell length = 73.8 microm; range 58-144 microm). In contrast, efferent lymph-derived cells passing unimpeded through the microcirculation demonstrated rapid velocity (median velocity = 216 microm/sec) and spherical geometry (median diameter = 14.6 microm). Further, the membrane surface area of the "trapped" cells, calculated based on digital image morphometry and corrosion cast scanning electron microscopy, suggested that the fractional excess membrane of the cells in the efferent lymph was significantly greater than previous estimates of membrane excess. These data indicate that transient immobilization of efferent lymph-derived mononuclear cells in the systemic inflammatory microcirculation is rare. When "trapping" does occur, the shape changes and sustained cell movement facilitated by excess cell membrane may contribute to the return of the "trapped cells" into the flow stream.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.