Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Antigens in the form of immune complexes are retained on the membranes of follicular dendritic cells (FDC) for long periods of time. To examine how immune complexes reach germinal centers, where FDC are located, we injected mice with anti-2,4-dinitrophenyl (DNP) antibodies complexed to DNP-myoglobin-coated gold particles. The distribution of the particles in spleens or draining lymph nodes was then determined with the electron microscope. The vast majority of the particles were cell bound. Shortly after injection they were phagocytized by macrophages or fixed on lymphocytes. The latter were found even in the corona of lymph follicles but not in germinal centers. Already 30 min after injection, FDC in contact with the corona were faintly positive but were negative in the center. FDC precursor cells were occasionally observed but in too small a number to account for the transport of immune complexes to the germinal centers. Twenty-four hours after injection colloidal gold particles were found in phagolysosomes of macrophages or on cytoplasmic extensions of FDC in all parts of the germinal centers. Experiments performed on isolated FDC showed that they are not only able to take up free immune complexes but are also able to adsorb immune complexes from pulsed lymphocytes. These results strengthen the idea that lymphoid cells binding immune complexes by their Fc receptors may transport these complexes inside germinal centers.