In vivo imaging has revolutionized understanding of the spatiotemporal complexity that subserves the generation of successful effector and regulatory immune responses. Until now, invasive surgery has been required for microscopic access to lymph nodes (LNs), making repeated imaging of the same animal impractical and potentially affecting lymphocyte behavior. To allow longitudinal in vivo imaging, we conceived the novel approach of transplanting LNs into the mouse ear pinna. Transplanted LNs maintain the structural and cellular organization of conventional secondary lymphoid organs. They participate in lymphocyte recirculation and exhibit the capacity to receive and respond to local antigenic challenge. The same LN could be repeatedly imaged through time without the requirement for surgical exposure, and the dynamic behavior of the cells within the transplanted LN could be characterized. Crucially, the use of blood vessels as fiducial markers also allowed precise re-registration of the same regions for longitudinal imaging. Thus, we provide the first demonstration of a method for repeated, noninvasive, in vivo imaging of lymphocyte behavior.
- Submitted September 7, 2011.
- Accepted January 9, 2012.
- © 2012 by The American Society of Hematology