Separation of potent and poorly functional human lung accessory cells based on autofluorescence

L. P. Nicod, M. F. Lipscomb, G. B. Toews, J. C. Weissler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Human alveolar macrophages obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage are usually poor accessory cells in in vitro lymphoproliferation assays. However, we recently described a subpopulation of pulmonary mononuclear cells, obtained from minced and enzyme-digested lung, which were potent stimulators of allogeneic T-lymphocyte proliferation. These cells were enriched in loosely adherent mononuclear cell (LAM) fractions, but further study of these accessory cells was hampered by the heterogeneous nature of LAM. It was observed that in the majority of lung tissue sections, most alveolar macrophages were autofluorescent, whereas most interstitial HLA-DR positive cells were not. Therefore autofluorescence was utilized to fractionate LAM in an attempt to remove alveolar macrophages and selectively purify interstitial accessory cells. LAM were separated by flow cytometry using forward and side scatter to exclude lymphocytes, and red autofluorescence to obtain brightly autofluorescent (A pos) and relatively nonautofluorescent (A neg) mononuclear cells. Although both populations contained over 80% HLA-DR positive cells, A pos cells were poor accessory cells, whereas A neg cells were extremely potent stimulators of a mixed leukocyte reaction at all stimulator ratios tested. When A pos cells were added to A neg cells, T-cell proliferation was markedly suppressed in the majority of experiments. Morphologically, A pos cells appeared similar to classical alveolar macrophages with 95% of the cells being large and intensely nonspecific esterase positive. In contrast, the majority of A neg were smaller, B-cell antigen-negative, nonspecific esterase negative, and had a distinctive morphology on Wright-stained smears. We conclude that fractionation of LAM based on autofluorescence is a powerful tool to isolate and characterize lung mononuclear cells that act either as stimulators or as suppressors of immune responses in the lung.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)458-465
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


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