Stromal cells may regulate the recruitment and behaviour of leukocytes during an inflammatory response, potentially through interaction with the endothelial cells (EC) and the leukocytes themselves. Here we describe new in vitro methodologies to characterise the effects of stromal cells on the migration of lymphocytes through endothelium and its underlying matrix. Three-dimensional tissue-like constructs were created in which EC were cultured above a stromal layer incorporating fibroblasts either as a monolayer on a porous filter or dispersed within a matrix of collagen type 1. A major advantage of these constructs is that they enable each step in leukocyte migration to be analysed in sequence (migration through EC and then stroma), as would occur in vivo. Migrated cells can also be retrieved from the constructs to identify which subsets traffic more effectively and how their functional responses evolve during migration. We found that culture of EC with dermal fibroblasts promoted lymphocyte transendothelial migration but not onward transit through matrix. A critical factor influencing the effect of fibroblasts on recruitment proved to be their proximity to the EC, with direct contact tending to disrupt migration. Comparison of the different approaches indicates that choice of an appropriate 3-D model enables the steps in lymphocyte entry into tissue to be studied in sequence, the regulatory mechanism to be dissected, and the effects of changes in stroma to be investigated.
- Endothelial cells