Leukocytes within the circulation are in dynamic equilibrium with a marginated pool, thought to reside mainly within the pulmonary capillaries. The size discrepancy between the mean diameter of circulating leukocytes (6-8 microns) and that of the pulmonary capillaries (approximately 5.5 microns) forces the cells to deform in order to transit the capillary bed. Consequently, we investigated the hypothesis that the biophysical properties of cell size and deformability determined differential leukocyte retention in the lung. Comparison of the filtration properties of human neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, platelets, and erythrocytes through polycarbonate filters (5-micron pore diameter) revealed that the largest leukocytes (neutrophils and monocytes) were retained to the greatest extent and the smaller cells (lymphocytes and platelets) the least. Undifferentiated HL-60 cells, of greater diameter than their differentiated counterparts, were also retained to a greater extent, confirming that cell size was one important determinant of retention in these model capillaries. However, compared with neutrophils, which are of similar diameter, monocytes were retained to a greater extent, suggesting that monocytes might be less deformable than neutrophils. To test this hypothesis, deformability was measured directly using the cell poker. Monocytes were found to be the stiffest, neutrophils the softest, and lymphocytes intermediate. Glutaraldehyde treatment of neutrophils markedly increased their stiffness and decreased their ability to transit the pores of the filters in vitro and the pulmonary microvasculature of rabbits without changing their adhesive properties or size. These observations support the hypothesis that biophysical properties of leukocytes (size and deformability) determine in part their ability to transit the pulmonary capillaries and may determine the magnitude of their marginated pools.
- Copyright © 1990 the American Physiological Society