Anatomical particularities of the porcine immune system--a physician's view

Dev Comp Immunol. 2009 Mar;33(3):267-72. doi: 10.1016/j.dci.2008.06.016. Epub 2008 Sep 5.


In this article the anatomical structure of the porcine immune organs is described. The focus is on their particularities that are related to the use of pigs as an animal model. Key issues of the intrauterine development of the lymphoid organs are presented, such as the specific epithelio-chorial placenta, the appearance of the thymic tissue and the initial development of B cells. The role of the thymus for the development of alpha/beta and gamma/delta T cells and the location of tonsillar tissue in the naso-pharynx, in the oral cavity and at the basis of the tongue are described. The porcine spleen is of interest for surgical techniques to treat splenic trauma adequately. The observation of the inverted lymph node structure of pigs is puzzling and it remains unclear why only few species have this distinct morphological organisation. Based on the functional differences in lymphocyte recirculation observed in pigs, specific lymph cannulation experiments are possible in the porcine immune system. The porcine intestinal lymphoid tissue and the lymphocytes in the mucosal epithelium and lamina propria are of interest for studying the gut immune responses. For use as a model the fact that the pig is a monogastric omnivorous animal represents an advantage, although the porcine ileal Peyer's patch has no obvious anatomical equivalent in man. Based on the detailed knowledge of porcine immune morphology the pig is suitable as model animal for immunology--in addition to the various experimental approaches in physiology, pharmacology, surgery, etc. that are applicable to human medicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Immune System / anatomy & histology*
  • Immune System / growth & development
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Lymph Nodes / anatomy & histology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Models, Animal*
  • Mucous Membrane / cytology
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Palatine Tonsil / anatomy & histology
  • Palatine Tonsil / immunology
  • Spleen / anatomy & histology
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Swine / anatomy & histology
  • Swine / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / anatomy & histology
  • Thymus Gland / immunology
  • Transplantation Immunology