Analyzing the migration of labeled T cells in vivo: an essential approach with challenging features

Lab Invest. 2003 Apr;83(4):459-69. doi: 10.1097/01.lab.0000062852.80567.90.


T cells are involved in the pathogenesis of many diseases. To exert a pathological effect, T cells enter the tissues. We show that the determination of their entry site requires isolation of the respective T cell population, injection into genetically un-manipulated animals, and identification of the cells in vivo at various time points after injection. We indicate variables influencing in vivo migration experiments artificially, and outline how resulting problems can be either avoided or taken into account. Reviewing experiments performed according to the outlined criteria reveals two types of migration patterns for T cell subsets in vivo: 1). Naïve and memory T cells enter lymphoid and non-lymphoid organs in comparable numbers, but selectively accumulate in lymphoid tissues over time, 2). Effector T cells, too, enter lymphoid and non-lymphoid organs in comparable numbers. However, most of them die within 24 hours. Depending on the presence of cytokines, chemokines and extracellular matrix compounds they are able to survive, thereby preferentially accumulating in their target tissues. This information might help to understand the role of migration in the pathogenesis of T cell mediated diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / immunology
  • Cell Movement / immunology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Research Design
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules