The lymph nodes draining the small intestine and colon are anatomically separate and immunologically distinct

Mucosal Immunol. 2016 Mar;9(2):468-78. doi: 10.1038/mi.2015.77. Epub 2015 Sep 2.


Dendritic cells (DCs) in the small intestine (SI) and colon are fundamental to direct intestinal immune responses; they migrate to the mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) and prime T cells. We demonstrate anatomical segregation of lymphatic drainage from the intestine, specifically that DCs from the SI and colon migrate to different nodes within the MLN, here called the sMLN and cMLN. As a consequence, different frequencies of DC subsets observed in the SI and colon are reflected among the DCs in the sMLN and cMLN. Consistent with the SI's function in absorbing food, fed antigen is presented in the sMLN, but not in the cMLN. Furthermore, the levels of expression of CCR9 and α4β7 are increased on T cells in the sMLN compared with the cMLN. DCs from the cMLN and colon are unable to metabolize vitamin A to retinoic acid (RA); thus, DCs may contribute to the differential expression of tissue homing markers observed in the sMLN and cMLN. In summary, the sMLN and cMLN, and the DCs that migrate to these LNs are anatomically and immunologically separate. This segregation allows immune responses in the SI and colon to be controlled independently.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Tracking
  • Colon / cytology*
  • Colon / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Integrins / genetics
  • Integrins / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Intestine, Small / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology*
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Receptors, CCR / genetics
  • Receptors, CCR / immunology
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • CC chemokine receptor 9
  • Integrins
  • Receptors, CCR
  • integrin alpha4beta7