Background: The lymphatic vascular pattern in the head of mice has rarely been studied, due to problems of sectioning and immunostaining of complex bony structures. Therefore, the association of head lymphoid tissues with the lymphatics has remained unknown although the mouse is the most often used species in immunology.
Results: Here, we studied the association of nasal and nasolacrimal duct lymphatics with lymphoid aggregates in 14-day-old and 2-month-old mice. We performed paraffin sectioning of whole, decalcified heads, and immunostaining with the lymphatic endothelial cell-specific antibodies Lyve-1 and Podoplanin. Most parts of the nasal mucous membrane do not contain any lymphatics. Only the region of the inferior turbinates contains lymphatic networks, which are connected to those of the palatine. Nose-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT) is restricted to the basal parts of the nose, which contain lymphatics. NALT is continued occipitally and can be found at both sides along the sphenoidal sinus, again in close association with lymphatic networks. Nasal lymphatics are connected to those of the ocular region via a lymphatic network along the nasolacrimal duct (NLD). By this means, lacrimal duct-associated lymphoid tissue (LDALT) has a dense supply with lymphatics.
Conclusions: NALT and LDALT play a key role in the immune system of the mouse head, where they function as primary recognition sites for antigens. Using the dense lymphatic networks along the NLD described in this study, these antigens reach lymphatics near the palatine and are further drained to lymph nodes of the head and neck region. NALT and LDALT develop in immediate vicinity of lymphatic vessels. Therefore, we suggest a causative connection of lymphatic vessels and the development of lymphoid tissues.
Keywords: LDALT; Lymphatic endothelial cell; Lymphatic vessels; Lymphoid tissue; Lyve-1; Mouse head; Mucosal immunity; NALT; Podoplanin.