Lymphocytes continuously migrate throughout the body in search of antigens. Virgin lymphocytes recirculate freely between the blood and different lymphatic organs, whereas immunoblasts extravasate preferentially into sites similar to those where they initially responded to antigen. Tissue-specific extravasation of lymphocytes is largely controlled by distinct lymphocyte surface receptors that mediate lymphocyte binding to high endothelial venules (HEV). In the present study, the molecular mechanisms determining the specificity of human mucosal (lamina propria) lymphocyte binding to different endothelial recognition systems were analyzed. Mucosal immunoblasts adhered five times better than small mucosal lymphocytes to mucosal HEV. Importantly, mucosal immunoblasts also bound to synovial HEV almost as efficiently as to mucosal HEV, but they did not adhere to peripheral lymph node HEV. To study the impact of different homing-associated molecules in this dual endothelial binding, we used a gut-derived T cell line and freshly isolated mucosal immunoblasts. Both cell types expressed integrins alpha 4, beta 1, beta 7, and lymphocyte function associated antigen 1 (LFA-1), and were CD44 positive, but practically L-selectin negative. Binding of mucosal immunoblasts to mucosal HEV was almost completely abolished by pretreatment with anti-beta 7 monoclonal antibodies, but it was independent of alpha 4/beta 1 function. In contrast, alpha 4/beta 1 partially mediated immunoblast adherence to synovial HEV, whereas alpha 4/beta 7 had only a minor role in adherence of blasts at this site. CD44 and LFA-1 contributed to HEV-binding both in mucosa and synovium. Taken together, this is the first report that demonstrates a critical role for alpha 4/beta 7 in the binding of gut lymphocytes to mucosal venules in humans. Moreover, a hitherto unknown interaction between mucosal effector cells and synovial endothelial cells was shown to be only partially mediated by the currently known homing receptors. The dual endothelial binding capacity of mucosal blasts may help to explain the pathogenesis of reactive arthritis not uncommonly associated with inflammatory and infectious bowel disease.

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