ABSTRACT: Asplenic individuals are compromised not only in their ability to destroy infectious agents, but are at increased risk for death from autoimmune disease, certain tumors, and ischemic heart disease. Enhanced mortality is attributed to lack of phagocytes sequestered in spleen that efficiently engulf and destroy appropriate targets, although related cells are found elsewhere. To determine whether a unique population regulates RBC-pathogen clearance and filtration of altered self, we reviewed the anatomic literature and analyzed in situ by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence the expression patterns of a little-characterized cell that dominates the splenic red pulp of humans and closely related primates: the venous sinus-lining or littoral cell (LC). High expression of the formin homology domain protein 1 outlines the LC population. Although LCs are endothelial-like in distribution, they express several macrophage-directed proteins, the RBC Duffy Ag receptor for chemokines and T cell coreceptor CD8α/α, yet they lack lineage-associated markers CD34 and CD45. Strikingly, SIRPα (CD172a) expression in human spleen concentrates on LCs, consistent with recent demonstration of a key role in RBC turnover and elimination versus release of infected or altered self. Our results indicate human LCs (SIRPα(+), formin homology domain protein 1(+), CD8α/α(+), CD34(-), CD45(-)) comprise a highly plastic barrier cell population that emerged late in primate evolution coordinate with CD8 expression. Unique to Hominidae, LCs may be the ultimate determinant of which cells recirculate after passage through human spleen.
The Journal of Immunology 04/2012; 188(9):4496-505. · 5.79 Impact Factor