Topological Structure and Robustness of the Lymph Node Conduit System

Cell Rep. 2020 Jan 21;30(3):893-904.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.12.070.


Fibroblastic reticular cells (FRCs) form a road-like cellular network in lymph nodes (LNs) that provides essential chemotactic, survival, and regulatory signals for immune cells. While the topological characteristics of the FRC network have been elaborated, the network properties of the micro-tubular conduit system generated by FRCs, which drains lymph fluid through a pipeline-like system to distribute small molecules and antigens, has remained unexplored. Here, we quantify the crucial 3D morphometric parameters and determine the topological properties governing the structural organization of the intertwined networks. We find that the conduit system exhibits lesser small-worldness and lower resilience to perturbation compared to the FRC network, while the robust topological organization of both networks is maintained in a lymphotoxin-β-receptor-independent manner. Overall, the high-resolution topological analysis of the "roads-and-pipes" networks highlights essential parameters underlying the functional organization of LN micro-environments and will, hence, advance the development of multi-scale LN models.

Keywords: conduit system; fibroblastic reticular cell; graph theory; lymph node; network; robustness; stromal cell; topology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Kinetics
  • Lymph Nodes / anatomy & histology*
  • Lymph Nodes / physiology*
  • Lymphotoxin beta Receptor / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction


  • Lymphotoxin beta Receptor