Bone marrow as a priming site for T-cell responses to blood-borne antigen

Nat Med. 2003 Sep;9(9):1151-7. doi: 10.1038/nm914. Epub 2003 Aug 10.


Although bone marrow is known as a primary lymphoid organ, its potential to serve as a secondary immune organ has hardly been explored. Here we demonstrate that naive, antigen-specific T cells home to bone marrow, where they can be primed. Antigen presentation to T cells in bone marrow is mediated via resident CD11c+ dendritic cells. They are highly efficient in taking up exogenous blood-borne antigen and processing it via major histocompatibility complex class I and class II pathways. T-cell activation correlates with dendritic cell-T cell clustering in bone marrow stroma. Primary CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses generated in bone marrow occur in the absence of secondary lymphoid organs. The responses are not tolerogenic and result in generation of cytotoxic T cells, protective anti-tumor immunity and immunological memory. These findings highlight the uniqueness of bone marrow as an organ important for hemato- and lymphopoiesis and for systemic T cell-mediated immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / blood*
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte / immunology
  • Bone Marrow / immunology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / immunology
  • CD11c Antigen / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Female
  • Immunologic Memory / immunology
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Splenectomy
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte
  • CD11c Antigen
  • CD69 antigen
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell