Intravital Two-Photon Microscopy of Immune Cell Dynamics in Corneal Lymphatic Vessels
Background The role of lymphatic vessels in tissue and organ transplantation as well as in tumor growth and metastasis has drawn great attention in recent years. Methodology/Principal Findings We now developed a novel method using non-invasive two-photon microscopy to simultaneously visualize and track specifically stained lymphatic vessels and autofluorescent adjacent tissues such as collagen fibrils, blood vessels and immune cells in the mouse model of corneal neovascularization in vivo. The mouse cornea serves as an ideal tissue for this technique due to its easy accessibility and its inducible and modifiable state of pathological hem- and lymphvascularization. Neovascularization was induced by suture placement in corneas of Balb/C mice. Two weeks after treatment, lymphatic vessels were stained intravital by intrastromal injection of a fluorescently labeled LYVE-1 antibody and the corneas were evaluated in vivo by two-photon microscopy (TPM). Intravital TPM was performed at 710 nm and 826 nm excitation wavelengths to detect immunofluorescence and tissue autofluorescence using a custom made animal holder. Corneas were then harvested, fixed and analyzed by histology. Time lapse imaging demonstrated the first in vivo evidence of immune cell migration into lymphatic vessels and luminal transport of individual cells. Cells immigrated within 1–5.5 min into the vessel lumen. Mean velocities of intrastromal corneal immune cells were around 9 µm/min and therefore comparable to those of T-cells and macrophages in other mucosal surfaces. Conclusions To our knowledge we here demonstrate for the first time the intravital real-time transmigration of immune cells into lymphatic vessels. Overall this study demonstrates the valuable use of intravital autofluorescence two-photon microscopy in the model of suture-induced corneal vascularizations to study interactions of immune and subsequently tumor cells with lymphatic vessels under close as possible physiological conditions.