Mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule-1 (MAdCAM-1) is essential for lymphocyte trafficking to gut-associated lymphoid tissues and is implicated in inflammatory disorders in the gut and pancreatic islets. In this study, we examined the functional role of MAdCAM-1 during rat ontogeny using newly generated specific mAb. As previously observed in mice and humans, MAdCAM-1 was preferentially expressed in high endothelial venules (HEV) in gut- associated lymphoid tissues and venules of lamina propria in adult rats. Lymphocyte rolling and adhesion on HEV in Peyer's patches (PP) were completely abrogated with neutralizing anti-MAdCAM-1 mAb, in agreement with the notion that MAdCAM-1 is the principal HEV ligand for lymphocyte roiling and adhesion in adult PP. In the developing gastrointestinal tract, MAdCAM-1 was widely expressed in the venules of the lamina propria of fetal rats. In addition, MAdCAM-1 was also expressed in follicular dendritic cells in the neonatal PP. Interestingly, MAdCAM-1 expression was found also in nonmucosal tissues during ontogeny. MAdCAM-1 was transiently expressed in blood vascular endothelial cells in the fetal skin and neonatal thymus. Notably, MAdCAM-1- positive blood vessels were localized mainly in the cortico-medullary junction in the neonatal thymus and about 10-20% of thymocytes, most of which were either CD4, CD8 double positive or single positive specifically reacted with soluble MAdCAM-1 via integrin α4β7. After birth, MAdCAM-1 expression in thymus blood vessels disappeared and concomitantly, the soluble MAdCAM-1- reactive thymocytes were rapidly down-regulated. Our results suggest that MAdCAM-1 functions as a vascular addressin in not only mucosal, but also nonmucosal lymphoid tissues during ontogeny.
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