Immunology

More to the Marrow

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Science  12 Sep 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5639, pp. 1445
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5639.1445b

The bone marrow acts as a primary lymphoid organ with a role in the generation of blood cells, but has not been thought to be involved in generating specific immune responses. Thus, mature naïve lymphocytes have been presumed to recirculate passively through bone marrow.

Work by Feurer et al. revises this traditional view by revealing that T cell immunity can, in fact, be spawned within bone marrow. Presentation of systemic antigen by bone marrow dendritic cells induced a strong cytotoxic T cell response, even in mice that lacked lymph nodes and a spleen. Clusters of responding T cells and dendritic cells observed in the bone marrow parenchyma appeared to represent foci of the primary response, comparable to structures seen in conventional secondary lymphoid organs: the lymph nodes and spleen. Systemic immunity induced in the bone marrow also protected from intradermal tumor challenge and produced long-lasting immune memory. The large numbers of lymphocytes that traffic through the bone marrow from the blood might suggest that immunity generated here could be geared more toward systemic infection, rather than at local tissue sites such as the skin or mucosa. — SJS

Nature Med. 10.1038/nm914 (2003).

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