Blood endothelial cells (ECs) constitute the primary physical barrier to be crossed by circulating leukocytes, once attracted to a site of ongoing inflammation/infection. Upon a pro-inflammatory stimulus, such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF), ECs upregulate adhesion molecule expression to favor the adhesion and, subsequently, the transendothelial migration of the attracted lymphocytes. To address the ability of a cell to transmigrate through a monolayer of ECs, the classical transmigration assay is usually performed (Muller and Luscinskas, 2008). In the present protocol, adapted from Safuan et al. (2012), we describe an in vitro assay for assessing the functionality of the second step of the transendothelial migration, i.e., the firm adhesion of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to ECs, under static conditions. By pre-incubating primary human umbilical cord ECs (HUVECs) with either innate lymphoid cell progenitors (ILCPs) or TNF, we were able to upregulate adhesion molecules on the EC surface. Then, by adding total PBMCs, we were able to both quantitatively and qualitatively analyze the cellular subtype and number of PBMCs that adhered to the pre-treated ECs. The important advantage of this technique is the possibility to perform functional studies on ECs biology since, differently from transwell-based strategies, it allows a good recovery of ECs at the end of the assay. Overall, this assay enables to interrogate how/if different stimulations/cell types can influence EC ability to retain PBMCs in vitro, under static conditions. Graphic abstract: The workflow of the Static Adhesion Assay.
Keywords: Adhesion molecules; Endothelial cells; Fluorescence-activated cell sorting; Peripheral blood immune cells; Static adhesion; Transendothelial migration.
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