The capacity of T lymphocytes exposed in vitro to the neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) to bind VIP in vitro and to migrate to different tissues in vivo has been studied. VIP treatment of T cells resulted in a time- and dose-dependent loss of the ability of T cells to specifically bind radioiodinated VIP. Altered binding was due to a decrease in the expression of cellular receptors for VIP on the treated cells rather than an alteration in the affinity of the cells for the neuropeptide. Alteration of VIP receptor expression was not associated with a change in the expression of Thy-1, Lyt-1, or Lyt-2 surface markers by the treated cells. VIP treatment of T cells in vitro resulted, however, in a dose-dependent decrease in the ability of the treated cells to localize in mesenteric lymph nodes (MLN) and Peyer's patches of recipient animals at early times after cell transfer, and this was due to a selective decrease in the rate of accumulation of the treated cells in these tissues. There was no alteration in the distribution of VIP-treated cells in the blood, spleen, liver, or other major organs of the recipient animals. It is concluded that the presence of VIP receptors on T cells facilitates the entry of T cells into MLN and Peyer's patches in vivo, and it is proposed that this effect is mediated by T cell-VIP interactions in the vicinity of the specialized endothelium of those tissues.

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