Background: Intravascular leukocyte recruitment in most vertebrate tissues is restricted to postcapillary and collecting venules, whereas capillaries and arterioles usually support little or no leukocyte adhesion. This segmental restriction is thought to be mediated by endothelial, rather than hemodynamic, differences. The underlying mechanisms are largely unknown, in part because effective tools to distinguish, isolate, and analyze venular endothelial cells (V-ECs) and non-venular endothelial cells (NV-ECs) have been unavailable. We hypothesized that the atypical chemokine receptor DARC (Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines, a.k.a. ACKR1 or CD234) may distinguish V-ECs versus NV-ECs in mice.
Methods: We generated a rat-anti-mouse monoclonal antibody (MAb) that specifically recognizes the erythroid and endothelial forms of native, surface-expressed DARC. Using this reagent, we characterized DARC expression and distribution in the microvasculature of murine tissues.
Results: DARC was exquisitely restricted to post-capillary and small collecting venules and completely absent from arteries, arterioles, capillaries, veins, and most lymphatics in every tissue analyzed. Accordingly, intravital microscopy showed that adhesive leukocyte-endothelial interactions were restricted to DARC+ venules. DARC was detectable over the entire circumference of V-ECs, but was more concentrated at cell-cell junctions. Analysis of single-cell suspensions suggested that the frequency of V-ECs among the total microvascular EC pool varies considerably between different tissues.
Conclusions: Immunostaining of endothelial DARC allows the identification and isolation of intact V-ECs from multiple murine tissues. This strategy may be useful to dissect the mechanisms underlying segmental microvascular specialization in healthy and diseased tissues and to characterize the role of EC subsets in tissue-homeostasis, immune surveillance, infection, inflammation, and malignancies.
Keywords: Chemokines; DARC/ACKR1; Leukocyte adhesion; Microvascular endothelium; Monoclonal antibody.