Alveolar macrophages transport pathogens to lung draining lymph nodes.
Kirby AC., Coles MC., Kaye PM.
The first step in inducing pulmonary adaptive immunity to allergens and airborne pathogens is Ag acquisition and transport to the lung draining lymph nodes (dLN). Dendritic cells (DC) sample the airways, and active transfer of Ag to the lung dLN is considered an exclusive property of migratory DC. However, alveolar macrophages (AM) are the first phagocytes to contact inhaled particulate matter. Although having well-defined immunoregulatory capabilities, AM are generally considered as restricted to the alveoli. We show that murine AM constitutively migrate from lung to dLN and that following exposure to Streptococcus pneumoniae, AM rapidly transport bacteria to this site. Thus AM, and not DC, appear responsible for the earliest delivery of these bacteria to secondary lymphoid tissue. The identification of this novel transport pathway has important consequences for our understanding of lung immunity and suggests more widespread roles for macrophages in the transport of Ags to lymphoid organs than previously appreciated.