Background: Lymph nodes (LNs) are important sites of connection between the sampled peripheral tissues, the many cells of the immune system, and the blood. The organization of the interface between the afferent and efferent lymphatic vasculature and LN parenchyma is incompletely understood, and obtaining a better understanding of these tissue microenvironments will contribute to an improved understanding of overall lymphatic function.
Methods and results: We used histologic approaches to define the distributions of cells expressing lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) markers in LNs from healthy, simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infected, or Mycobacterium tuberculosis infected cynomolgus macaques. Cells at the afferent and efferent interfaces of LNs from all animals showed differential expression of LEC markers, with podoplanin, Prox-1, and VEGFR3 expressed in both microenvironments, but with LYVE-1 expressed only at the efferent interface. The chemokine CCL20 was uniquely expressed at the afferent interface by cells co-expressing podoplanin, and this expression was increased during SIV or M. tuberculosis infection. In contrast, only a small proportion of cells expressing the CCR7 ligand CCL21 co-expressed podoplanin. Treatment of model LECs with the TLR3 ligand poly(I:C) or gamma-irradiated M. tuberculosis increased production of CCL20 without altering CCL21 or LEC marker expression.
Conclusions: This study provides a comprehensive mapping of the organization of the lymphatic endothelial network entering and exiting LNs in health and in chronic infectious diseases in a nonhuman primate model. The differences we have defined between the afferent and efferent interfaces of LNs could inform the future design of vaccines and immunotherapies.