Compartmentalized gut lymph node drainage dictates adaptive immune responses

Nature. 2019 May;569(7754):126-130. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1125-3. Epub 2019 Apr 15.


The intestinal immune system has the challenging task of tolerating foreign nutrients and the commensal microbiome, while excluding or eliminating ingested pathogens. Failure of this balance leads to conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, food allergies and invasive gastrointestinal infections1. Multiple immune mechanisms are therefore in place to maintain tissue integrity, including balanced generation of effector T (TH) cells and FOXP3+ regulatory T (pTreg) cells, which mediate resistance to pathogens and regulate excessive immune activation, respectively1-4. The gut-draining lymph nodes (gLNs) are key sites for orchestrating adaptive immunity to luminal perturbations5-7. However, it is unclear how they simultaneously support tolerogenic and inflammatory reactions. Here we show that gLNs are immunologically specific to the functional gut segment that they drain. Stromal and dendritic cell gene signatures and polarization of T cells against the same luminal antigen differ between gLNs, with the proximal small intestine-draining gLNs preferentially giving rise to tolerogenic responses and the distal gLNs to pro-inflammatory T cell responses. This segregation permitted the targeting of distal gLNs for vaccination and the maintenance of duodenal pTreg cell induction during colonic infection. Conversely, the compartmentalized dichotomy was perturbed by surgical removal of select distal gLNs and duodenal infection, with effects on both lymphoid organ and tissue immune responses. Our findings reveal that the conflict between tolerogenic and inflammatory intestinal responses is in part resolved by discrete gLN drainage, and encourage antigen targeting to specific gut segments for therapeutic immune modulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4 Antigens / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Polarity
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Duodenum / cytology
  • Duodenum / immunology*
  • Duodenum / microbiology
  • Female
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mouth / immunology
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stromal Cells / immunology
  • Stromal Cells / microbiology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / microbiology


  • CD4 Antigens