Cellular components of the immune barrier in the spinal meninges and dorsal root ganglia of the normal rat: immunohistochemical (MHC class II) and electron-microscopic observations

Cell Tissue Res. 1993 Aug;273(2):209-17. doi: 10.1007/BF00312822.


This report deals with the distribution, morphology and specific topical relationships of bone-marrow-derived cells (free cells) in the spinal meninges and dorsal root ganglia of the normal rat. The morphology of these cells has been studied by transmission and scanning electron microscopy. Cells expressing the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II gene product have been recognized by immunofluorescence. At the level of the transmission electron microscope, free cells are found in all layers of the meninges. Many of them display characteristic ultrastructural features of macrophages, whereas others show a highly vacuolated cytoplasm and are endowed with many processes. These elements lack a conspicuous lysosomal system and might represent dendritic cells. Scanning electron microscopy has revealed that free cells contact the cerebrospinal fluid via abundant cytoplasmic processes that cross the cell layers of the pia mater and of the arachnoid. Cells expressing the MHC class II antigen are also found in all layers of the meninges. They are particularly abundant in the layers immediately adjacent to the subarachnoid space, in the neighbourhood of dural vessels, along the spinal roots and in the dural funnels. In addition to the meninges, strong immunoreactivity for MHC class II antigen is observed in the dorsal root ganglia. The ultrastructural and immunohistochemical findings of this study suggest the existence of a well-developed system of immunological surveillance of the subarachnoid space and of the dorsal root ganglia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Ganglia, Spinal / immunology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / ultrastructure*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Meninges / immunology*
  • Meninges / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II