Directional Migration of Recirculating Lymphocytes through Lymph Nodes via Random Walks
Naive T lymphocytes exhibit extensive antigen-independent recirculation between blood and lymph nodes, where they may encounter dendritic cells carrying cognate antigen. We examine how long different T cells may spend in an individual lymph node by examining data from long term cannulation of blood and efferent lymphatics of a single lymph node in the sheep. We determine empirically the distribution of transit times of migrating T cells by applying the Least Absolute Shrinkage & Selection Operator () or regularised to fit experimental data describing the proportion of labelled infused cells in blood and efferent lymphatics over time. The optimal inferred solution reveals a distribution with high variance and strong skew. The mode transit time is typically between 10 and 20 hours, but a significant number of cells spend more than 70 hours before exiting. We complement the empirical machine learning based approach by modelling lymphocyte passage through the lymph node . On the basis of previous two photon analysis of lymphocyte movement, we optimised distributions which describe the transit times (first passage times) of discrete one dimensional and continuous (Brownian) three dimensional random walks with drift. The optimal fit is obtained when drift is small, i.e. the ratio of probabilities of migrating forward and backward within the node is close to one. These distributions are qualitatively similar to the inferred empirical distribution, with high variance and strong skew. In contrast, an optimised normal distribution of transit times (symmetrical around mean) fitted the data poorly. The results demonstrate that the rapid recirculation of lymphocytes observed at a macro level is compatible with predominantly randomised movement within lymph nodes, and significant probabilities of long transit times. We discuss how this pattern of migration may contribute to facilitating interactions between low frequency T cells and antigen presenting cells carrying cognate antigen.