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Pharmacokinetics and modeling of immune cell trafficking: quantifying differential influences of target tissues versus lymphocytes in SJL and lipopolysaccharide-treated mice

William A Banks123*, Michael L Niehoff4, Nicholas M Ponzio5, Michelle A Erickson126 and Steven S Zalcman7

Author Affiliations

1 GRECC, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA, USA

2 Division Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, USA

3 VAPSHCS, Rm 810A, 1660 S. Columbian Way, Seattle, WA, 98108, USA

4 Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO, USA

5 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, USA

6 Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, USA

7 Department of Psychiatry-UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, USA

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:231  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-231

Published: 3 October 2012



Immune cell trafficking into the CNS and other tissues plays important roles in health and disease. Rapid quantitative methods are not available that could be used to study many of the dynamic aspects of immune cell-tissue interactions.


We used pharmacokinetics and modeling to quantify and characterize the trafficking of radioactively labeled lymphocytes into brain and peripheral tissues. We used variance from two-way ANOVAs with 2 × 2 experimental designs to model the relative influences of lymphocytes and target tissues in trafficking.


We found that in male CD-1 mice, about 1 in 5,000 intravenously injected lymphocytes entered each gram of brain. Uptake by brain was 2 to 3 times higher in naïve SJL females, but uptake by spleen and clearance from blood was lower, demonstrating a dichotomy in immune cell distribution. Treatment of CD-1 mice with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) increased immune cell uptake into brain but decreased uptake by spleen and axillary nodes.


Differences in brain uptake and in uptake by spleen between SJL and CD-1 mice were primarily determined by lymphocytes, whereas differences in uptake with LPS were primarily determined by lymphocytes for the brain but by the tissues for the spleen and the axillary lymph node. These results show that immune cells normally enter the CNS and that tissues and immune cells interact in ways that can be quantified by pharmacokinetic models.

Blood–brain barrier; Brain; Cellular trafficking; Encephalitis; Immune; Lymphocytes; Multiple sclerosis; Neuroinflammation; Neuroimmune; Pharmacokinetics