Effector T cells exit the inflamed vasculature into an environment shaped by tissue-specific structural configurations and inflammation-imposed extrinsic modifications. Once within interstitial spaces of non-lymphoid tissues, T cells migrate in an apparent random, non-directional, fashion. Efficient T cell scanning of the tissue environment is essential for successful location of infected target cells or encounter with antigen-presenting cells that activate the T cell's antimicrobial effector functions. The mechanisms of interstitial T cell motility and the environmental cues that may promote or hinder efficient tissue scanning are poorly understood. The extracellular matrix (ECM) appears to play an important scaffolding role in guidance of T cell migration and likely provides a platform for the display of chemotactic factors that may help to direct the positioning of T cells. Here, we discuss how intravital imaging has provided insight into the motility patterns and cellular machinery that facilitates T cell interstitial migration and the critical environmental factors that may optimize the efficiency of effector T cell scanning of the inflamed tissue. Specifically, we highlight the local micro-positioning cues T cells encounter as they migrate within inflamed tissues, from surrounding ECM and signaling molecules, as well as a requirement for appropriate long-range macro-positioning within distinct tissue compartments or at discrete foci of infection or tissue damage. The central nervous system (CNS) responds to injury and infection by extensively remodeling the ECM and with the de novo generation of a fibroblastic reticular network that likely influences T cell motility. We examine how inflammation-induced changes to the CNS landscape may regulate T cell tissue exploration and modulate function.
Keywords: CNS; T cell; chemokines; extracellular matrix proteins; inflammation; migration; motility; multiphoton imaging.