Drainage of brain extracellular fluid into blood and deep cervical lymph and its immunological significance

Cserr HF, Harling-Berg CJ, Knopf PM

Brain Pathol. 1992 Oct;2(4):269-76

PMID: 1341962


Cerebral extracellular fluids drain from brain to blood across the arachnoid villi and to lymph along certain cranial nerves (primarily olfactory) and spinal nerve root ganglia. Quantification of the connection to lymph in rabbit, cat and sheep, using radiolabelled albumin as a marker of flow, indicates that a minimum of 14 to 47% of protein injected into different regions of brain or cerebrospinal fluid passes through lymph. The magnitude of the outflow to lymph is at variance with the general assumption that the absence of conventional lymphatics from the brain interrupts the afferent arm of the immune response to brain antigens. The immune response to antigens (albumin or myelin basic protein) introduced into the central nervous system (CNS) has been analysed using a rat model with normal brain barrier permeability. The micro-injection of antigen into brain or cerebrospinal fluid elicits a humoral immune response, with antibody production in cervical lymph nodes and spleen, and also affects cell-mediated immunity. Furthermore, antigen may be more immunogenic when administered into the CNS than into conventional extracerebral sites. Clearly, the afferent arm of the immune response to antigens, within the CNS, is intact. Modern studies suggest that the efferent arm is also intact with passage of activated lymphocytes into the brain. Results support a new view of CNS immunology which incorporates continuous and highly regulated communication between the brain and the immune system in both health and disease.

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