Ectopic lymphoid follicles: inducible centres for generating antigen-specific immune responses within tissues

Immunology. 2016 Feb;147(2):141-51. doi: 10.1111/imm.12554. Epub 2015 Dec 10.


Lymphoid neogenesis is traditionally viewed as a pre-programmed process that promotes the formation of lymphoid organs during development. Here, the spatial organization of T and B cells in lymph nodes and spleen into discrete structures regulates antigen-specific responses and adaptive immunity following immune challenge. However, lymphoid neogenesis is also triggered by chronic or persistent inflammation. Here, ectopic (or tertiary) lymphoid organs frequently develop in inflamed tissues as a response to infection, auto-immunity, transplantation, cancer or environmental irritants. Although these structures affect local immune responses, the contribution of these lymphoid aggregates to the underlining pathology are highly context dependent and can elicit either protective or deleterious outcomes. Here we review the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for ectopic lymphoid neogenesis and consider the relevance of these structures in human disease.

Keywords: arthritis; autoimmunity; cancer; infection; lymphoid neogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • Autoimmunity*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Choristoma / immunology*
  • Choristoma / metabolism
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Lymphoid Tissue*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Tumor Escape


  • Autoantigens
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators