Membranous cells in nasal-associated lymphoid tissue: a portal of entry for the respiratory mucosal pathogen group A streptococcus

J Immunol. 2003 Sep 1;171(5):2532-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.171.5.2532.


Human tonsils are suspected to be an antibiotic-impervious human reservoir for group A streptococcus. An intranasal infection model in mice and a bioluminescent-tagged strain were used to investigate this possibility. Viable streptococci were predominantly found both intra- and extracellularly in nasal-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT), a human tonsil homologue. Ulex europaeus-1, a membranous (M) cell-specific lectin, identified cells harboring streptococci at the epithelial surface of NALT and blocked bacterial colonization of this tissue. These results suggest that M cells in NALT transport this Gram-positive pathogen across the epithelial layers in a manner similar to those in Peyer's patches, which permit enteric pathogens to invade deeper tissues from the gastrointestinal tract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intracellular Fluid / immunology
  • Intracellular Fluid / microbiology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / cytology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / microbiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nasal Mucosa / cytology
  • Nasal Mucosa / immunology
  • Nasal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Nasopharynx / cytology
  • Nasopharynx / immunology*
  • Nasopharynx / microbiology*
  • Palatine Tonsil / cytology
  • Palatine Tonsil / immunology
  • Palatine Tonsil / microbiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / immunology*
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology*
  • Streptococcal Infections / pathology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / immunology
  • Streptococcus pyogenes / pathogenicity*