Microfibrillar-associated protein 4 (MFAP4) is an extracellular protein belonging to the fibrinogen-related protein superfamily and is recognized as an integrin ligand with suggested functions in pulmonary and vascular tissue homeostasis. MFAP4 expression in the spleen is increased during infections; however, the significance of MFAP4 for the function of the spleen is unknown. Immunohistochemistry, morphometry and real-time RT-PCR were used to analyze wild-type and MFAP4-deficient spleens. In addition, they were compared with splenic tissue, which was newly formed 8 weeks after avascular implantation into adult mice in order to obtain information about the role of MFAP4 in the formation of splenic tissue during ontogeny and adult life. The present study shows that MFAP4 is co-localized with laminin in the B- and T-cell zones of the spleen, in addition to capsular and trabecular expression. MFAP4 is most likely produced by fibroblastic reticulum cells and follicular dendritic cells of the spleen but can also be imported via the blood from other tissues. The development of splenic tissue is not disturbed in MFAP4-deficient mice. However, in splenic tissue regenerating under MFAP4-deficient conditions, the number of FDCs is significantly decreased but is corrected by MFAP4 imported from other tissues. No differences were observed for lymphocyte numbers or splenic structure. The data indicate that MFAP4 promotes FDC development in regenerating splenic tissue and warrant further investigations regarding the MFAP4 dependency of splenic B-cell maturation.
Keywords: Development; Mice; Regeneration; Splenic tissue; Transplantation.