Little is known about how lymphocytes migrate within secondary lymphoid organs. Stromal cells and their associated reticular fibers form a network of fibers that radiate from high endothelial venules to all areas of the lymph node and may provide a scaffold for lymphocyte migration. We studied interactions of lymphocytes with cultured human tonsillar stromal cells and their extracellular matrix using shear stress to distinguish transient interactions from firm adhesion. Tonsillar lymphocytes and SKW3 T lymphoma cells tethered and rolled on monolayers of cultured tonsillar stromal cells and their matrix. A significant proportion of these rolling interactions were independent of divalent cations and were mediated by CD44 binding to hyaluronan, as shown by inhibition with mAb to CD44, soluble hyaluronan, as hyaluronidase treatment of the substrate, and O-glycoprotease treatment of the rolling cells. O-glycoprotease treatment of the substrate also blocked binding completely to stromal matrix and partially to stromal monolayers. SKW3 cells tethered and rolled on plastic-immobilized hyaluronan, confirming the specificity of this interaction. By contrast, monolayers of resting or stimulated human umbilical vein endothelial cells failed to support CD44- and hyaluronan-dependent rolling. SKW3 cells added under flow conditions to frozen sections of human tonsil bound and rolled along reticular fibers in the presence of EDTA. Rolling was blocked by either CD44 mAb or hyaluronan. We propose that lymphocytes migrating through secondary lymphoid organs may use CD44 to bind to hyaluronan immobilized on stromal cells and reticular fibers.

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