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Crawling movements of lymphocytes on and beneath fibroblasts in culture

Publication Date
  • Biological Sciences: Immunology
  • Medicine


Some lymphocytes become highly motile upon immunological stimulation in vivo or in vitro. When introduced into a culture of 3T3 or L cells and followed by live-cell microscopy, some of these lymphocytes were observed to crawl on top of, along the edges of, and preferentially beneath the attached fibroblasts. The crawling could be as rapid as 20 μm/min, easily detectable without a time-lapse device. The striking ability of crawling lymphocytes to penetrate beneath attached 3T3 cells provided a quantitative means to compare the crawling activity of different lymphocyte populations under various conditions. Crawling was diminished by inhibitors of energy metabolism, by agents that disrupt the cytoskeleton, and by absence of Mg2+ and Ca2+, but not of Ca2+ alone. Crawling lymphocytes were virtually absent in normal thymus and spleen cells. They increased greatly in 5-day mixed lymphocyte cultures and in peritoneal exudate lymphocytes taken after mice had been immunized with allogeneic tumor cells. T cells accounted for most of the crawlers. Of two T-cell leukemias tested, R1+ cells were crawlers whereas EL-4 cells were not. The H-2 haplotype of the 3T3 fibroblasts (i.e., whether syngeneic or allogeneic) had no apparent effect on lymphocyte crawling activity. The crawling may relate to the exploration of cell surface antigens by lymphocytes (immune surveillance), to the mode of action of cytotoxic T cells, to the migration of lymphocytes across blood vessel walls, or to the penetration of lymphocytes into “solid” masses of normal tissue or tumor cells.

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