The Journal of Immunology
Lymphocyte homing to peripheral lymph nodes (PLNs) is mediated by multistep interactions between lymphocytes and high endothelial venules (HEVs). Heparan sulfate (HS) has been implicated in the presentation of chemokines on the surface of HEVs during this process. However, it remains unclear whether this cell surface presentation is a prerequisite for lymphocyte homing. In this study, we generated conditional knockout (cKO) mice lacking Ext1, which encodes a glycosyltransferase essential for HS synthesis, by crossing Ext1(flox/flox) mice with GlcNAc6ST-2-Cre transgenic mice expressing Cre recombinase in HEVs. Immunohistochemical studies indicated that HS expression was specifically eliminated in PLN HEVs but retained in other blood vessels in the cKO mice. The accumulation of a major secondary lymphoid tissue chemokine, CCL21, on HEVs was also abrogated without affecting CCL21 mRNA levels, indicating that HS presents CCL21 on HEVs in vivo. Notably, a short-term lymphocyte homing assay indicated that lymphocyte homing to PLNs was diminished in the cKO mice by 30-40%. Consistent with this result, contact hypersensitivity responses were also diminished in the cKO mice. The residual lymphocyte homing to PLNs in the cKO mice was dependent on pertussis toxin-sensitive Gi protein signaling, in which lysophosphatidic acid-mediated signaling was partly involved. These results suggest that chemokine presentation by HS on the surface of HEVs facilitates but is not absolutely required for lymphocyte homing.