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The role of M cells of human nasopharyngeal lymphoid tissue in influenza virus sampling


Little is known about the role of the M cells of human nasopharyngeal lymphoid tissue in the sampling of viruses that cause respiratory infections. To clarify whether M cells could function as a gateway for influenza virus into human nasopharyngeal lymphoid tissue, excised adenoid tissue was incubated in media containing influenza A virus for 30, 60, and 90 min, respectively. Transmission electron microscopic observation revealed that many influenza viruses adhered to M cell surfaces and were taken up into the cytoplasmic vesicles of M cells after 30 min incubation; the viruses had been transported into enfolded lymphoid cells after 60 min incubation. By staining M cells with Sambucus nigra lectin, which specifically recognizes the NeuAcα2,6 Gal linkage of sialoprotein, it was also found that abundant receptors for the human influenza virus are present on the M cell surface. Our findings indicated that M cells of human nasopharyngeal tonsils function as a major port for influenza A virus entry and that the virus could be efficiently transferred to enfolded macrophages and lymphoid cells by M cells. The transport of influenza viruses to lymphoid cells by M cells may promote antigen delivery to the immune system, and these findings may be important for systemic delivery of those influenza viruses that have the capacity to productively infect cells outside of the respiratory tract.

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This work was supported by project research grants from the Kawasaki Medical School, a grant-in-aid for scientific research from the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture (15591072), and a grant-in-aid for scientific research from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan.

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Correspondence to Yoshinori Fujimura.

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Fujimura, Y., Takeda, M., Ikai, H. et al. The role of M cells of human nasopharyngeal lymphoid tissue in influenza virus sampling. Virchows Arch 444, 36–42 (2004).

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  • M cell
  • Influenza A virus
  • NALT
  • Lectin
  • Electron microscopy