Immune cell migration as a means to control immune privilege: lessons from the CNS and tumors

Immunol Rev. 2006 Oct;213:195-212. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2006.00433.x.


Certain organs, such as the brain, eye, and gonads, are particularly sensitive to damage by inflammation. Therefore, these tissues have developed unique immunological properties that curtail inflammatory responses, a phenomenon termed immune privilege. In addition, by co-opting some of the regulatory cues operant in immune privilege in normal organs, tumors can evade immunosurveillance. While many different mechanisms contribute to immune privilege, there is evidence that leukocyte migration is an important checkpoint in its control. This hypothesis is based on the fact that leukocyte entry into these organs is restricted by physical barriers and that the collapse of these obstacles marks a critical step in the development of inflammatory/autoimmune disease at these sites. Numerous studies in a variety of experimental systems have characterized the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in leukocyte homing to immune-privileged organs. Recently, two-photon microscopy has revealed critical insights into the events occurring in the extravascular space of immune-privileged organs, including locomotion patterns and interactive behavior of leukocytes in the interstitial space. Here, we review our current understanding of immune cell migration to and within immune-privileged organs and highlight how this knowledge may be exploited for immunotherapeutic purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / immunology*
  • Central Nervous System / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology*
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Immune Tolerance / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*