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Capillary networks and follicular marginal zones in human spleens. Three-dimensional models based on immunostained serial sections

We have reconstructed small parts of capillary networks in the human splenic white pulp using serial sections immunostained for CD34 alone or for CD34 and CD271. The three-dimensional (3D) models show three types of interconnected networks: a network with very few long capillaries inside the white pulp originating from central arteries, a denser network surrounding follicles plus periarterial T-cell regions and a network in the red pulp. Capillaries of the perifollicular network and the red pulp network have open ends. Perifollicular capillaries form an arrangement similar to a basketball net located in the outer marginal zone. The marginal zone is defined by MAdCAM-1+ marginal reticular stromal cells. Perifollicular capillaries are connected to red pulp capillaries surrounded by CD271+ stromal capillary sheath cells. The scarcity of capillaries inside the splenic white pulp is astonishing, as non-polarised germinal centres with proliferating B-cells occur in adult human spleens. We suggest that specialized stromal marginal reticular cells form a barrier inside the splenic marginal zone, which together with the scarcity of capillaries guarantees the maintenance of gradients necessary for positioning of migratory B- and T-lymphocytes in the human splenic white pulp.

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